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Veterans Suffer Infections At VA Hospitals

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is supposed to provide medical care for veterans who have served in the military. This includes injuries that happened as a result of military services as well as other health conditions that affect veterans after service. This is supposed to be one of the benefits of military service. Unfortunately, many vets receive negligent care and have a difficult time getting compensation for their injuries. 

Viruses and Infections in Tennessee VA for Vets

A number of veterans were reportedly exposed to viruses and infections through improperly cleaned colonoscopy equipment. John Renegar Jr., who served with the 101st Airborne in Vietnam, was shocked to receive a letter from the VA, notifying him that he may have been exposed to life-threatening infections. He tested positive for chronic hepatitis he believes he contracted during a colonoscopy at the VA medical center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. 

Renegar is among more than 6,300 patients who were determined to be at risk of infection after procedures at the Tennessee VA. An investigation by the hospital discovered a one-way valve had been missing and the water system tubing was not properly disinfected or discarded, as provided by the manufacturer’s instructions. 

A physician’s assistant at the Murfreesboro facility said the contamination was a known problem and that staff didn’t speak up out of fear. At least 16 other VA facilities reported that they had not been following the proper cleaning and reprocessing guidelines. A VA center in Miami sent a similar letter to more than 3,200 veterans. 

Avoiding Responsibility for Injuries 

When negligent medical care causes injury, including life-threatening infections, the injury victim may have a claim for damages through a medical malpractice lawsuit. However, the VA has refused compensation for many veterans who file a malpractice claim. In letters to veterans denying malpractice claims, the VA states, “Our investigation did not disclose any negligent acts or omissions by employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs.” 

Veterans have tested positive for hepatitis and HIV that may be related to the contaminated colonoscopy procedures. However, Tennessee has one of the shortest statutes of limitations for medical malpractice in the country, leaving many veterans helpless to recover compensation. 

The statute of limitations is the time limit for filing a personal injury claim. For example, in Pennsylvania, most medical malpractice claims have to be filed within 2 years of the date of the injury or harm. However, there may be an exception when the injury victim does not discover the harm until later. In Tennessee, the statute of limitations is 1 year but the discovery rule only allows for a maximum of 3 years after the injury to file a lawsuit.

Unfortunately, injury victims in Tennessee may not have the option of filing a malpractice claim if they are too late. A court ruled one Tennessee veteran’s claim was filed too late even though he was not notified by the VA of the possible infection until years later. Carl Huddleston was also treated at the Murfreesboro VA hospital and later found out he contracted hepatitis. Huddleston acted within months of getting the letter but the court ruled that the claim was filed after the statute of limitations expired. 

Act Fast After a Hospital-Acquired Infection

If you or a loved one developed a life-threatening infection after medical treatment, it’s critical to speak with a medical malpractice attorney who has experience with cases involving medical negligence. To discuss your case with a member of our legal team, fill out an online case evaluation form or call (800) 529-6162 today.  

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian
Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm’s litigation practice.  Briggs’ legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 


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