In July we discussed the story of Brian Tally, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, who sought treatment for back pain at his local Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital. They failed to diagnose a much more serious problem that eventually left him disabled. In the meantime, Tally reluctantly reached a settlement agreement with the VA, was informed that his long-term prognosis was worse than expected, and met with federal lawmakers in efforts to reform the system.
The Tally Bill would mandate that the VA inform patients when they are being treated by a physician who is an independent contractor and be liable to some degree for the negligence of such contracted medical professionals.
Decision to Obtain a Second Opinion
Both Tally’s doctor and a nurse practitioner who treated his back condition at the VA hospital never detected that he was suffering from spinal stenosis. He was also never referred to an orthopedic specialist for his condition. He did later request a visit with an orthopedic specialist; however, he would have had to wait for several months to be seen.
Tally chose to undergo an MRI at a local spine center where they determined that he needed spinal surgery. Again, the VA was unable to perform the surgery in a timely fashion due to a patient backlog.
Reluctantly Accepts VA Settlement
Brian spent many months pursuing a claim against the VA for medical malpractice; however, he was told that the statute of limitations for bringing such an action had passed. The VA ultimately offered him a settlement option that was clearly insufficient based on his damages incurred. The VA stated that the offer was not an admission of malpractice, but instead to avoid further “litigation risk”. Tally reluctantly accepted the agreement in light of mounting financial problems.
More Bad News
After the settlement was processed another medical evaluation revealed that he had incurred more severe damage to the spinal region than had previously been diagnosed. This more accurate diagnosis reflected the true harm that was caused by the extended periods of delay that occurred during his initial back treatments at the VA. In an effort to pacify Tally, the VA added an additional $100 to his monthly disability check.
The VA and a physician who had been involved in his prior treatment at the facility denied interview requests. A spokesman did release a brief statement affirming their commitment to offering “the best healthcare available” and that they intend to “hold themselves accountable” when medical errors occur. Brian is still questioning the timing of when he was informed of the worsened condition that existed as it relates to the settlement agreement as being “suspicious”.
In recent months Tally has begun focusing on a mission of helping to better protect other veterans from difficult situations like he has experienced. He was recently in Washington D.C. discussing the proposed “Tally Bill” with lawmakers. Congressman Dave Brat is sponsoring the legislation that seeks to hold the VA partially responsible for the medical negligence among their contracted staff. Tally says that he has received an overall “great response” from several federal representatives.