After service to the country, veterans deserve respect and proper care for their sacrifices. Unfortunately, many veterans find that the government seems to forget about them after their service, especially for veterans in need. Medical care at VA facilities can have problems just like any other hospital. Unfortunately, it may be more difficult for a veteran injured because of VA medical malpractice to get justice than a civilian.
Claims for medical malpractice against the government may be more difficult but an experienced medical malpractice team can help you get compensation for injuries caused by medical malpractice. A medical malpractice claim can help you get money for your injuries, medical bills, loss of income, and pain and suffering. If you want to know more about filing a medical malpractice lawsuit against the VA, contact an experienced medical malpractice law firm for more information.
Can You Sue the VA for Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor deviates from the standards of medical care and causes injury to a patient. For most patients, a medical malpractice injury means they can file a malpractice lawsuit to recover compensation for losses caused by the medical error. However, for veterans, medical malpractice claims against the government are more complex.
Medical injuries can involve all types of medical errors in a hospital, including errors by doctors, nurses, surgeons, healthcare workers, hospital support staff, and even hospital administrators. Types of medical malpractice accidents include:
- Surgical errors
- Diagnostic errors
- Medication errors
- Devices and equipment mishandling
- Systems failures
- Healthcare technology errors
Veterans who suffer injuries caused by medical malpractice at a VA facility may be able to recover compensation under the FTCA. Before 1946, people could not sue the government for personal injuries caused by a government employee’s negligence because the government had “sovereign immunity.” However, in 1946, the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) was passed to allow exceptions for certain claims under the FTCA.
Claims for Medical Malpractice for Active Duty Military
Historically, members of the military were unable to file lawsuits against the government for personal injuries suffered while on active duty. However, the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) allows members of the military to file claims for personal injury or death caused by a Department of Defense (DOD) healthcare provider for negligent care in military medical care facilities.
There are limitations for compensation under the 2020 NDDA. There is a limited amount of time to file a claim for injuries. In most cases, service members must file a claim within 2 years after the injury. If there is a substantiated claim under $100,000, it can be paid directly to the military member or their estate. However, claims for more than $100,000 have to be reviewed by the Treasury Department.
Medical Malpractice Claims Under the FTCA
The FTCA has procedures for handling legal claims against the VA for money damages caused by medical malpractice. This applies to the negligence of government employees, including VA doctors and health care workers, while acting within the scope of their employment. For a medical malpractice claim against the VA, the injury victim can file a Standard Form 95, Claim for Damage, Injury, or Death; or has to make a:
- Detailed allegation;
- With a sum certain in total dollar amount claimed in damages; and
- Signature of the claimant.
The SF 95 includes questions about the basis of the claim, nature and extent of the injury, witnesses, amount of the claim, and other information. You may also have to submit additional evidence or records of your injuries or damages. The injury victim has to file a claim with the VA within 2 years from the date of the injury.
After Filing Notice of VA Malpractice
After filing a claim with the VA, the VA may request an interview with the injury victim. You can have your medical malpractice attorney accompany you to any interviews with the VA lawyers. The next step is waiting. As most veterans know, the VA is not always fast to respond to requests.
Before you can file a lawsuit, you have to wait for the VA to exhaust all remedies. The injury victim generally has three options based on the VA response:
- VA could approve the claim and provide compensation;
- VA will deny the claim and the injury victim can then proceed with a lawsuit; or
- VA will delay response and after 6 months the injury victim can file a lawsuit.
Even if the VA does not deny a claim for 6 months or more, it may act as constructive denial because the government is taking so long to respond. After exhausting all remedies with the VA, you can file a lawsuit in federal court for damages. In most cases, after filing a lawsuit the case will be resolved during an initial settlement conference. If the case is not settled, it can continue to trial.
Section 1151 Disability Claims for VA Hospital Injuries
Veterans may have another option to receive compensation for injuries caused by malpractice at a VA facility through a Section 1151 claim. If a veteran suffered an added disability or their existing condition worsened while getting care at a VA facility, they may be able to get disability compensation. Section 1151 disability claims apply to:
- VA carelessness or negligence;
- VA medical or surgical treatment;
- VA health exams;
- VA vocational rehabilitation courses; or
- VA compensated work therapy (CWT).
Recovery may be simpler under a Section 1151 disability claim. In some cases, the veteran can recover awards under both a Section 1151 claim and the FTCA claims. However, the VA will withhold disability benefits until the total amount of the FTCA settlement is paid out. However, your settlement can be structured to reduce or avoid the offset.
Veterans Affairs Medical Care Accidents
There are often very good doctors working in VA facilities. However, like any large-scale healthcare organization, there are plenty of problems. Problems that lead to possible medical errors in a VA hospital can include:
- Overworked staff
- Lack of following proper cleaning and sterilization procedures
- Poorly coordinated care
- The absence of safety nets
- Unwarranted variation in physician practice patterns
- Lack of accountability
- Delayed treatment
- Handoff and documentation errors
For example, around 2018, there were several suspicious deaths in VA facilities involving insulin. A number of patients died after their blood sugar levels crashed even if they had no issues with blood sugar previously. After an FBI investigation, a nursing assistant pleaded guilty to 7 counts of murder, for administering insulin injections (when not qualified) to intentionally cause death.
Another problem is the government’s response to dealing with problems. Even when there is a pattern of errors, the government will often respond with denial because they are afraid of opening itself up to liability for injuries to thousands of other veterans and service members. Even after some VA workers admit to problems, the government often responds with, “Our investigation did not disclose any negligent acts or omissions by employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs.”
VA Hospitals and Health Care Systems
The Department of Veterans Affairs is the government branch that provides life-long medical care to eligible military veterans. The VA also provides other benefits, including education assistance, job training, home loans, and burial benefits. Eligibility for VA benefits requires service for 24 continuous months or the full period called for active duty. However, veterans may also be eligible if they were:
- Discharged for a disability that was caused or made worse by active-duty service;
- Discharge for hardship or “early out;” or
- Service prior to September 7, 1980.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, “the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is the largest integrated health care system in the United States.” Under the VHA, the 1,298 health care facilities include:
- 171 VA Medical Centers
- 1,113 outpatient clinics
VA Hospitals in Chicago and Illinois
Some of the largest VA facilities in Illinois are located in and around Chicago.
Jesse Brown Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center
820 South Damen Avenue
Chicago, IL 60612-3728
Main phone: 312-569-8387
Mental health care: 312-569-7225
Adam Benjamin Jr., Veterans’ Administration Outpatient Clinic
9301 Madison Street
Crown Point, IN 46307-7745
Auburn Gresham VA Clinic
7731 South Halsted Street
Chicago, IL 60620-2412
Chicago Heights VA Clinic
211 Dixie Highway, Suite 4
Chicago Heights, IL 60411-1696
Chicago VA Clinic
1141 South California Avenue, Community Resource & Referral Center (CRRC)
Chicago, IL 60612-9998
Lakeside VA Clinic
211 East Ontario Street, Suite 1200
Chicago, IL 60611-3276
If you were injured in a Chicago VA facility, talk to your Chicago medical malpractice law firm to recover benefits and compensation for your injuries.
Maryland VA Hospitals
There are several VA facilities in Maryland and the surrounding areas. If you have questions about medical malpractice in VA facilities, talk to an experienced Maryland medical malpractice attorney for help.
There are 3 VA Medical Centers in Maryland, two in Baltimore and one in Perry Point.
Baltimore VA Medical Center
10 North Greene Street
Baltimore, MD 21201-1524
Loch Raven VA Medical Center
3901 The Alameda
Baltimore, MD 21218-2100
Perry Point VA Medical Center
361 Boiler House Road, Building 361
Perry Point, MD 21902-1103
VA Hospitals in Pennsylvania
There is a main medical center in Philadelphia with other health clinics in the Philadelphia area. Pennsylvania has other VA medical centers across the state, including:
Corporal Michael J. Crescenz Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center
3900 Woodland Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19104-4551
VA Clinics in Philadelphia include:
Fourth Street VA Clinic
213 North 4th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106-1801
Chestnut Street VA Clinic
4219 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-3014
West Philadelphia VA Clinic
6232 Market Street, Suite 100
Philadelphia, PA 19139-2922
For injuries involving negligent care at a VA center or VA clinic in Philadelphia or Pennsylvania, contact an experienced Philadelphia medical malpractice team for help.
Washington, D.C. Veteran Hospitals
There is one main VA medical center in D.C., with other clinics available in Washington, D.C., and neighboring states Virginia and Maryland. The main VA medical center is:
Washington VA Medical Center
50 Irving Street, Northwest
Washington, DC 20422-0001
If you believe you were injured because of negligent care in the nation’s capital, contact an experienced law firm that handles Medical malpractice cases in Washington, D.C.
How Much Does a VA Medical Malpractice Attorney Cost?
Many medical malpractice injury victims do not take action for their injuries because they are worried they can’t afford a good medical malpractice lawyer. However, most medical malpractice attorneys work on a contingency fee basis. This means the injury victim does not have to pay anything until the attorney recovers an award.
For example, if a veteran is injured because of a negligent surgery at a Chicago VA hospital, they can hire a medical malpractice attorney with nothing out-of-pocket. The attorney will front the expenses of handling the case, including filing fees, expert witnesses, and court costs. After the attorney recovers a settlement for $500,000, the lawyer will get their fee and the veteran will receive their malpractice award.
Under the FTCA, attorneys have a limit to the amount they can charge for recovering money for veterans. If the medical malpractice attorney recovers money at the administrative level (before filing a lawsuit), the attorney can charge a contingency fee of no more than 20% of the award. If the case goes to a lawsuit, the attorney can charge a contingency fee of no more than 25% of the award.
Can a Medical Malpractice Lawyer Help?
You may have never thought about a medical lien before suffering a serious injury caused by medical malpractice or a personal injury accident. Medical insurance can be a complicated matter and the laws are changing all the time. Healthcare providers may have different rules and even prices for patients based on who is paying.
A medical malpractice attorney can help by explaining the process of a medical injury lawsuit, who will pay your medical bills, and how you can recover compensation for your injuries. Your attorney can also negotiate on your behalf, to maximize your settlement award so you see more of the money that you are owed after a medical injury.
Contact experienced medical malpractice attorneys who can look at your case, answer your questions, and help you understand your legal options to file a claim against a doctor or hospital after a medical error. Contact Gilman & Bedigian online or at 800-529-6162 for a free consultation.