On March 6, 2017, a federal judge awarded an 18-year Army veteran $2.5 million for the harm he suffered because the Phoenix VA Medical Center had failed to schedule an appointment for him for one year, and then when he was finally seen, it was a physician assistant who examined him and found that he had an enlarged and irregular prostate but failed to order further diagnostic tests, failed to refer him to a urologist, and told him there was nothing that should be done.
A year later, when his symptoms had not gotten better, the veteran returned to the Phoenix VA Medical Center and was seen by a doctor who performed a biopsy on his prostate. The biopsy revealed that the veteran had prostate cancer that had progressed to Stage 4, which the VA doctor told him was both terminal and incurable. The VA doctor told the veteran that he sould arrange for hospice care.
The man (thankfully) sought out a second opinion from a private physician, who performed a radical prostatectomy on him. The man is presently cancer-free but he lives with the knowledge that the cancer may return at any time and that he is not expected to survive five years.
The veteran’s VA medical malpractice lawsuit alleged that had he been timely seen at the Phoenix VA Medical Center and appropriate medical tests had been ordered, his prostate cancer would have been diagnosed and treated at a much earlier stage and his chance for a cure was more likely.
The federal judge determined at the conclusion of the one-week nonjury trial that the VA medical providers had been negligent and that their failure to comply with the standard of care led to the harm claimed by the veteran. The federal judge awarded the man $2.5 million against the United States. After the VA medical malpractice verdict was rendered in his favor, the man stated, “They could’ve made a $200 million verdict. I’m still going to die in a few years, so that’s irrelevant.”
Well-Documented Phoenix VA Medical Center Problems
The VA Office of Inspector General issued a report dated August 26, 2014 regarding problems at the Phoenix VA Medical Center entitled Review of Alleged Patient Deaths, Patient Wait Times, and Scheduling Practices at the Phoenix VA Health Care System. The report states, in part:
“The patient experiences described in this report revealed that access barriers adversely affected the quality of primary and specialty care at the PVAHCS. In February 2014, a whistleblower alleged that 40 veterans died waiting for an appointment. We pursued this allegation, but the whistleblower did not provide us with a list of 40 patient names. From our review of PVAHCS electronic records, we were able to identify 40 patients who died while on the EWL [Electronic Wait List] during the period April 2013 through April 2014 … ”
“We also found problems with access to care for patients requiring Urology Services … ”
“Our analysis found that the majority of the veteran patients we reviewed were on official or unofficial wait lists and experienced delays accessing primary care … While the case reviews in this report document poor quality of care, we are unable to conclusively assert that the absence of timely quality care caused the deaths of these veterans … ”
“Patients recently hospitalized, treated in the emergency department (ED), attempting to establish care, or seeking care while traveling or temporarily living in Phoenix often had difficulty obtaining appointments … we identified over 3,500 additional veterans, many of whom were on what we determined to be unofficial wait lists, waiting to be scheduled for appointments but not on PVAHCS’s official EWL … ”
“Since the PVAHCS story first appeared in the national media, we received approximately 225 allegations regarding PVAHCS and approximately 445 allegations regarding manipulated wait times at other VA medical facilities through the OIG Hotline, from Members of Congress, VA employees, veterans and their families, and the media … ”
“This report cannot capture the personal disappointment, frustration, and loss of faith of individual veterans and their family members with a health care system that often could not respond to their mental and physical health needs in a timely manner. Immediate and substantive changes are needed.”
If you or a loved one suffered serious injury or death as a result of medical care received through the VA (or necessary medical care that was delayed or never provided by the VA), you should promptly consult with a medical malpractice attorney in your U.S. state who handles medical malpractice claims against the VA, who may investigate your VA medical malpractice claim for you and guide you and represent you with regard to complying with the requirements regarding bringing claims against the VA for medical negligence.
Visit our website or telephone us on our toll-free line in the United States at 800-295-3959 to be connected with VA medical malpractice lawyers in your state who may assist you.
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