Local Columbia newspaper The State recently reported on the case of U.S. Navy Veteran Eric Walker. Mr. Walker sought care at the Dorn Veterans Hospital in Columbia, SC, while suffering from severe pains in his abdomen.
The hospital asked for a routine urine sample — that’s where the ‘routine’ part of this ER visit ends. To Walker’s shock, the hospital informed him that he had flunked their drug test and his stomach pains were caused by “excessive cocaine use” and other drug ingestion.
Medical staff at Dorn did not attempt to provide treatment for his pain and told him instead to go home and seek help for drug addiction.
Several days later, Mr. Walker was driven to Lexington Medical Center when his abdominal pain grew worse. He was diagnosed with gall stones and disease of the pancreas and gall bladder, and rushed into surgery.
Mr. Walker is now pursuing litigation against Dorn Veterans Hospital and the VA for allegedly switching his urine sample with that of another patient, causing the delay in treatment and his condition to worsen.
While Dorn is contesting his version of events, Mr. Walker’s case illustrates increasing instances of veterans alleging poor, delayed, or even outright denied care in VA-owned and operated facilities. Unfortunately, delays and denial can end in serious injury or even death for the suffering veterans and their families.
What can you do to advocate for yourself and your family members? Can you take any steps to potentially prevent medical malpractice at VA hospitals? How do you know when it’s worth pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit against Veterans Affairs?
Unfortunately, we’re not entirely sure — in June 2017, there was a noted seven percent increase in medical errors reported at VA hospitals, but an eighteen percent decrease in investigations of those events.
The Military Times noted that from 2010 to 2015, 2,111 administrative claims for malpractice were filed against Army, Navy and Air Force medical centers and hospitals, with 254 resulting in medical malpractice lawsuits against the Army and Navy. (The Air Force did not provide figures for how many claims developed into lawsuits.)
Considering that it’s estimated that the majority of veterans don’t file claims alleging negligence in the care they receive, the amount of malpractice occurring within VA-owned hospitals may be even higher than we think.
We place a great deal of trust in our medical providers, but the incidents of medical malpractice at VA facilities suggest that it’s important to actively advocate for and protect yourself and your family members from further harm when seeking medical care.
We recommend taking a few steps that can help you to protect you and your loved ones:
Despite taking careful steps to prevent falling victim to medical malpractice, unfortunately there is still a chance you could find yourself injured or ill as a direct result of care you received — or did not receive — at VA-owned facilities.
In our next post, we’ll take a closer look at what to do after suffering medical malpractice at VA facilities and what it takes to seek justice from Veterans Affairs and the federal government.
At Bluestein Attorneys, our VA Disability team is made up of military veterans themselves, who understand the unique stress of military life. We have experience working with veterans seeking justice under the Federal Tort Claims Act and for other types of VA Disability claims. Reach us by phone at (877) 524-4675 or click the banner below to request your FREE VA Disability consultation.