Scandals Point to Substandard Medical Care for Veterans

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Widespread allegations of delays in medical appointments and phony record-keeping are putting the Department of Veterans Affairs under close scrutiny. President Obama has ordered a comprehensive review of the system that provides medical care to America’s veterans.

Complaints about the system have been reported for years. But recently insiders and whistleblowers have said that veterans have suffered or even died awaiting care, that some medical programs have been mismanaged, and that officials at some VA hospitals have falsified records to mask a backlog of patients awaiting appointments.

Whistleblowers at the VA facility in Phoenix told CNN and the Arizona Republic that employees had a secret waiting list designed to make it appear as though veterans were getting medical care much more quickly than they were.

A May 21 article in The Seattle Times cited several examples alleged substandard care at VA facilities around the country, including:

  • A Washington Navy veteran who waited 18 months for the VA to read the results of an MRI test that showed bony protrusions near his spinal cord, putting him at risk of paralysis.
  • An Arizona Navy veteran who waited months after his doctor ordered a biopsy of blemishes on his nose. A specialist said that a biopsy was unnecessary, and the veteran successfully appealed. By the time a biopsy was performed, the cancer had progressed to the point that half the veteran’s nose had to be removed.
  • A Texas Army veteran whose doctor ordered “immediate” chemotherapy to treat throat cancer, but the veteran died after a two-month delay in treatment.
  • An Arizona Navy veteran who waited two months for a follow-up appointment at a VA facility after discovering blood in his urine. A private hospital diagnosed him with terminal bladder cancer.
  • A Nevada Navy veteran who had to wait five hours at a VA emergency room for treatment after complaining of intense pain in her abdomen. She died less than a month later after doctors found a large mass.

Earlier this year, USA Today reported that the VA’s Office of the Medical Inspector found that staff at a hospital in Fort Collins, Colo., was instructed to falsify records, so it would appear that doctors were seeing as many as 14 patients a day – the agency’s goal for backlog elimination.

A report by the VA Inspector General spotlighted mismanagement of the gastrointestinal program at the Dorn VA Medical Center in Columbia, S.C., resulting in delays in diagnosis and treatment of cancer patients. CNN reported that several deaths at the center were linked to delays in care.

All of these are serious allegations that need to be resolved. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki has ordered audits of all veterans medical facilities across the country. Meanwhile some have called for Shenseki’s resignation.

The fact is that Veterans Affairs hospitals have been under severe strain for years. As these facilities see more patients than before, many veterans are being forced to wait weeks and longer for appointments. Our veterans deserve better.

At Morrow Kidman Tinker Macey-Cushman, PLLC we have recovered for military veterans and their families in cases concerning delayed and mismanaged care by VA providers.  We are experienced in navigating the system for bringing claims against the VA, and will work to bring justice for our clients.  If you are concerned about delays or errors in your VA care, do not hesitate to call us or contact us using our online form.