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Wrongful death suits have cost Veteran's Administration millions

When our nation's veterans seek medical and mental health care from a Veteran's Administration hospital, most do not expect to suffer from significant problems as a result of that care. However, in Marion, Illinois, the VA hospital has paid out $7.7 million in 25 wrongful death lawsuits. That is the most for any one VA hospital in the nation in the 10 years since the Sept. 11 attacks.

The reasons for the wrongful death lawsuits vary. Across the country, there are tragic stories of veterans who have died as a result of medical malpractice, missed diagnoses, prescription errors and other negligent actions. In Illinois, one veteran who had a colonoscopy died after he suffered internal bleeding. Another contracted a fatal infection after being given an enema. Both of these deaths occurred at the Marion VA hospital.

Improperly treated mental health conditions have also been the subject of several wrongful death lawsuits against the VA. One veteran who was in a locked psychiatric unit in Louisiana died from a morphine overdose. In Minnesota, a psychiatric patient committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.

These are just a few of the deaths across the country that have resulted in wrongful death lawsuits and payouts from the VA to the tune of more than $200 million. That amount is for almost 1,000 wrongful death lawsuits. The average amount of compensation is about $135,000 for each death. A total of 45 cases in Illinois have resulted in settlements.

The personal injuries that these veterans suffered should never have happened. Congress is scrutinizing the care our veterans receive at VA hospitals as well as why it takes so long for veterans to receive that care. The failure to discipline VA officials when it comes to preventable deaths is also being examined.

As the congressional inquiry continues into the level of care at VA hospitals across the nation, it is likely that more preventable deaths will occur. While it can be difficult to get through the red tape associated with filing a lawsuit against the VA, an experienced personal injury attorney can provide the guidance needed to hold negligent facilities and staff responsible.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "VA pays a price in wrongful deaths" Aaron Glantz, Apr. 29, 2014

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