Wichita, KS -- (ReleaseWire) -- 03/19/2015 --There is an increasing number of U.S. veterans who become victims of medical malpractice each year. In 2013, there was a total of $91.7 million in settlements paid to victims of veteran clinic medical malpractice, which was the highest total since 2001(Freedom of Information Act request).
Since 2003, over 3,000 veterans have been awarded $100 million in medical malpractice damages. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) employs 19,000 doctors in 152 VA hospitals across the country. They treat over 22 million veterans a year. There were 5.6 million veterans treated in 2013 alone, which is a 32 percent increase since 2002. This is due to the growing number of military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. In the next four years, projected statistics estimate an additional 1.2 million soldiers will become veterans.
"Many veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and serious physical injuries that require highly specialized care. Wounded veterans in the 21st century are surviving injuries that would have killed soldiers in World War II and Vietnam," says Bradley J. Prochaska, medical malpractice attorney of Prochaska, Howell & Prochaska. "When VA hospitals become overwhelmed with patients, then medical malpractice can occur."
There are a growing number of cases where veterans are victimized by missed diagnoses, and delayed treatment and procedures. Instances of veteran medical malpractice include a recent outbreak of Legionnaires' disease, exposure to HIV, sterilization malpractice, and fatalities. There was even a case where a 20-year-old Marine Corps veteran was paralyzed during a routine dental procedure.
Members of Congress have cited the lack of accountability for VA doctors as a reason for the increase in malpractice cases. There is also little incentive for VA hospitals to reduce medical malpractice occurrences. This is due to the fact that settlements are not paid directly by the VA hospital. They are instead taken from the Treasury budget, which is paid for by taxpayers.
"Medical malpractice cases involving VA hospitals are slightly more complicated than those in the public sector," says Prochaska. "The lawsuit isn't against the VA doctor, but against the agency itself. Settlements are also determined by the age of the victim. Younger patients with a longer lifespan ahead of them, usually receive higher settlements."