VA Wrongful Death Settlements Paid to More than 1,000 Families

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) paid hundreds of millions in wrongful death settlements between 2001 and 2011, resolving claims brought by more than 1,000 families of veterans who died because they were put on long medical waiting lists or were given inappropriate care at VA facilities.  

Late last week, Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma revealed a year-long report investigating lengthy delays and other problems with VA medical centers nationwide.

The report, titled “Friendly Fire: Death, Delay, and Dismay at the VA“, found that problems in the VA medical system are chronic and have continued unabated due to a lack of proper oversight from Congress.

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The VA came under intense scrutiny earlier this year, when it was revealed that some VA medical centers had falsified records to cover up long waiting lists for veterans seeking care, which has resulted in some patient deaths.

On June 10, the Senate voted to approve a bill that would allow veterans to go to a doctor outside of the VA if they face a lengthy wait.

“Over the past decade, more than 1,000 veterans may have died as a result of VA malfeasance, and the VA has paid out nearly $1 billion to veterans and their families for its medical malpractice,” the report notes. “The waiting list cover-ups and uneven care are reflective of a much larger culture within the VA, where administrators manipulate both data and employees to give an appearance that all is well.”

The report points out that the actual number of deaths and the amount of medical malpractice suffered by veterans is probably significantly larger because many veterans do not report delays or problems. In addition, suing the VA and the government is a long and arduous process, which the report notes probably discourages many qualified plaintiffs who have legitimate medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuits.

The report found massive and disturbing problems throughout the system, with reports of VA employees selling cocaine to veterans attempting to recover from drug addiction, using government computers to watch child pornography, sexually harassing and molesting female patients and often doctoring records to cover up problems.

When honest employees stepped up or refused to “cook the books” to assist in cover ups, they were punished with transfers, pay cuts and poor reviews, investigators discovered.

“This report shows the problems at the VA are worse than anyone imagined,” Coburn said in a press release. “The scope of the VA’s incompetence – and Congress’ indifferent oversight – is breathtaking and disturbing. This investigation found problems at the VA are far deeper than just scheduling.”

The report found that the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee has ignored problems and warnings brought to its attention for decades, and through control of both parties and numerous committee chairs. Over the last four years, the committee has held only two oversight hearings on VA medical issues.

Sen. Coburn said that any legislation passed by Congress to deal with problems at the VA should not ignore its own lack of oversight.

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  • sandraSeptember 26, 2014 at 10:32 pm

    if you are over the age of 75 and you die from the hands of the va hospt don't bother filing a law suit because you will get the same answers I have gotten sorry about your luck there is nothing we can do for you. this is what I have gotten from 5 lawyers because they don't want to take the time to look into this for a 94 yr.person .

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