Congress to Tighten Leash on VA after Disastrous Medical Errors

In the wake of the our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) has been innundated with a new generation of injured troops entirely different than in wars past. The changes in veteran demographic, mixed with the pre-existing American healthcare problems and an array of other factors, is causing disarray in the VA. Medical malpractice attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm take a closer look into the disorder and how Congress plans to fix it.

You know something has gone terribly wrong when the least-productive Congress in U.S. history is calling foul on another government agency. Bipartisan members of Congress are launching investigations and working on remedial efforts after reports of serious and devastating problems at VA hospitals throughout the country. To have bipartisan members of Congress frustrated with the agency is extremely telling of its fundamental, deep-rooted problems.

The issues are wide-spread and affect all 1,700 VA facilities in the U.S. Among the problems, legislators are blaming lack of accountability, management errors, and restrictions on performance-based pay for the abundance of medical errors, which are devastating veterans. Congressional members are now considering and will more than likely approve penalties for the VA.

The House Veterans Affairs Committee chairman told the Wall Street Journal that he plans to introduce legislation that will make it easier for poorly performing hospital staff to be demoted or fired. Currently, VA executives receive bonuses based almost exclusively on tenure rather than performance or contribution.

Needless Deaths of our Veterans
Much of the Congressional uproar is in response to an influx of media coverage of the dire, often fatal conditions at VA hospitals in Pennsylvania, Georgia, and South Carolina to name just three. CNN recently published a story on several patient deaths at the Dorn VA Medical Center in South Carolina and the Charlie Norwood Medical Facility in Georgia. CNN reporters investigated the facilities after it became clear that dozens of patients were dying of cancer due to delayed or flat-out denied care.

The report noted that thousands of veterans at these two facilities alone were being forced to wait several months even for routine screening tests such as colonoscopies – within some waiting lists going back as far as 2010. To say this is unacceptable is a dire understatement. Making matters worse, those in charge of these facilities were wholly unable to report remedy and disciplinary action for the backlogs.

VA facilities function differently than traditional privatized hospitals and healthcare clinics. As with any other government agency, the environment within the facilities is extremely enclosed and nepotistic. Inadequate employees are rarely fired; the worst that happens is a transfer to another VA facility, where the cycle of negligence merely continues without discipline or consequence. Additionally, many do not realize that the VA in its entirety is paid for by the American public through taxes.

Among its aims, Congress will explicitly examine each VA executive’s history of contribution, action and capabilities. The VA system cares for about 8.75 million patients – from WWII vets to teenagers coming back from Afghanistan – with an annual budget of over $145 billion. There are no current discussions surrounding cuts to this massive budget, only of the VA’s performance and lack thereof.

The issue is becoming more and more pressing because the VA has reportedly failed to respond to over 100 requests for information by Congress. Some of those requests regarded an outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease in a Pennsylvania VA that killed five veterans and sickened over 20 (the outbreak was due to insufficient plumbing), and reports of abuse of authority at a Georgia VA when a favored congressional aide was hired over much more qualified applicants.

Our team of medical malpractice lawyers has been reporting on the problems in the VA system and the disastrous effects on veterans for quite some time, and we will continue to do so. We have been fighting on behalf of injured patients for nearly 30 years, and have the knowledge and experience to help you fight and win your legal battles against negligent physicians and hospitals. If you have any questions about injuries or illnesses contracted while at a healthcare facility, contact our firm today for a free legal consultation.

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