Medical Malpractice Suits against Pennsylvania VA Clinic Settled for $1.4M

Families of four veterans who died due to medical malpractice at the Coatesville, PA, Veterans Affairs Medical Clinic were paid nearly $1.4 million in wrongful death cases following their treatment, according to reports from The Center for Investigative Reporting.

The malpractice cases included failure to monitor a patient, improper management of a psychiatric patient, wrongful diagnosis or misdiagnosis of a patient and failure to monitor a patient.

The cases were filed as early as June 2003, and all the cases were closed by December 2011. These four cases are just a small portion out of more than 1,000 wrongful death cases which are filed against Veterans Affairs facilities nationwide. These wrongful death cases have resulted in more than $200 million in settlements.

The first case of failure to monitor a patient was filed on 26 June 2003 and was closed on 1 January, 2005 for a total settlement of $100,000.

The second case was for improper management of a psychiatric patient which was filed on 3rd October 2005. It was closed on 2nd February 2008 for a settlement of $495,578.

The third case was for wrongful diagnosis or misdiagnosis of a patient which was filed on 16th April 2010. The case was closed on 19th August 2011 for $300,000.

The fourth medical malpractice case was for failure to monitor a patient and was filed on 23rd April 2010. It was closed on 1st December 2011 for a settlement of $500,000.

via Medical Malpractice Suits against Pennsylvania VA Clinic Settled for $1.4M.

Vets Report VA Delays | Health News Florida

North Florida residents are speaking out on their experiences at the Gainesville and Lake Mary Veteran’s Affairs hospitals, saying like other veterans across the country, they have had records lost and have been forced to wait months to see a doctor, the Florida Times-Union reports.
On the whole, veterans say while the care they get is good, the delays are significant and they also have had to look elsewhere for treatment, the Times-Union reports.
A nationwide investigation of the VA is underway, facing multiple scandals and accounts of medical malpractice and scheduling manipulation, the Times-Union reports.

via Vets Report VA Delays | Health News Florida.

‘Twas always thus: VA is scandal ridden – SFGate

The Veterans Administration scandal is pretty dreadful, but it should not be a surprise. There have been VA scandals since there was a VA – indeed, before, when there was something called the Veterans Bureau that devolved into a morass of corruption. It was replaced in 1930 by the current VA.

Two years later, veterans marched on Washington to get war bonuses they were promised during World War I. The vets had to be driven away from the capital by federal troops, a sad case of soldiers turning against soldiers. Everyone was embarrassed and reforms were promised.

And so it went – 1947, a government investigation uncovered fraud, waste and long wait times for services. Pledges are made that heads would roll. Eight years later, another investigation uncovered many instances of inadequate care, along with the requisite waste and corruption.

In the 1970s, the VA denied for the longest time that Agent Orange had anything to do with health problems. Also in the ’70s: Another investigation found inadequate patient care in the Denver and New Orleans hospitals. In the 1980s, three scandals. All of them revolved around waste, corruption and inadequate patient care.

via ‘Twas always thus: VA is scandal ridden – SFGate.

KSDK finds 70 years of VA complaints

ST. LOUIS – Can you guess which president said the words, “I am trying to get this mess to operate… The Veterans Administration will be modernized…That should be done as soon as possible, but I can’t do it immediately.”

Was it President Obama, Busch, Clinton, Reagan? How about none of the above.

It was Missouri’s own Harry S. Truman on May 15, 1945. The buck may have stopped with President Truman, but after 69 years nothing has stopped “the mess” as he called it.

One St. Louisan who did not want to be identified is fighting for her husband’s care.

“I have never seen care (horrible) like our veterans get at John Cochran and Jefferson Barracks,” she said.

Her husband is a Vietnam veteran who was diagnosed with extremely high blood pressure and sent to a cardiologist. He waited nine months for an appointment. It’s an example of why St. Louis ranks among the worst in the nation when it comes to wait times for specialty care.

“I had a nurse stand in the hallway when I was standing in the hallway yelling about the care my husband was getting and I said I was going to call somebody. She said go ahead, all they do is send a letter and your husband gets worse care,” said the wife.

The wife didn’t stop fighting for her husband and reached out to Rep. Ann Wagner’s office. Congressional staff is now helping to navigate the complicated bureaucratic system so her husband gets the help he needs.

“The treatment my husband has gotten, our dog gets better care than that,” said the woman.

It’s important to note KSDK also receives letters and emails daily from veterans very happy with their care and we report those stories as well.

Also this week, nurses told us they are spending their own money buy food for patients. They complain after hours and on weekends they often go without snacks like crackers or sandwiches to serve hospitalized veterans.

In an email sent by a Desert Storm veteran and nurse, Wes Gordon writes to supervisors in April,

“How can we as an organization not be embarrassed? Tonight (Monday the 21st) we received no snacks, no sandwiches… I mean nothing but juice and milk for the veterans. And I checked all three floors. How embarrassing do you think it is for the nurses to tell patients a professional organization in this day and age can’t even bring packs of graham crackers to patients?”

The St. Louis VA insists there are three meals a day plus snacks available for veterans. But when we asked whether supervisors were aware of nurses complaints that they were spending their own money to provide food for veterans, we did not hear back.

This weekend Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo. 2nd District) is holding a VA intake day to hear firsthand from local veterans and their families. She wants to hear about wait times, quality of care, and services.

The intake day will take place Saturday, June 14 from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. at her congressional district office in Ballwin, Mo., 301 Sovereign Court, Suite 201, Ballwin, MO 63011.

via KSDK finds 70 years of VA complaints.

Veteran fatally shoots himself at Milwaukee VA campus

A veteran shot himself at the Milwaukee Veterans Affairs campus Thursday morning and was taken to Froedtert Hospital in Wauwatosa, where he later died.

The incident happened at 8:40 a.m. in one of the VA parking lots. The man’s identity was not released.

The man was a post-Vietnam era, non-combat veteran who came to one of the parking lots, pulled out a gun and shot himself. A Disabled American Veterans van driver saw the man shoot himself and immediately alerted VA police and medical staff, who provided medical care until the veteran was taken by ambulance to Froedtert, said Gary Kunich, VA Hospital spokesman.

“There was no indication there were any issues or concerns about his care here at the VA or wait times. That was not an issue,” Kunich said.

Kunich said there was no indication the man left a suicide note or explained why he was going to shoot himself. He didn’t come in to the hospital before firing his gun.

Because the VA Hospital is not a Level 1 trauma center, the man was taken to Froedtert. An autopsy will be performed by the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner on Friday.

via Veteran fatally shoots himself at Milwaukee VA campus.

Family says VA didn’t pay vet’s final medical bills

COMER, Ga. — An Athens-area family is claiming the Office of Veteran Affairs reneged on a promise to pay for the final medical bills for a veteran of two wars.

James Walker signed up to serve in Navy in World War II and then re-enlisted during the Korean War.

Two years ago, he suffered a stroke and was treated at Athens Regional Medical Center because there were no beds available at the VA hospital in Augusta.

Walker’s family says they were assured the VA would pick up the tab, but then they started getting calls from bill collectors about a year after he died.

Walker’s family says the VA healthcare system didn’t honor their father service and sacrifice for his country.

“My mom and dad didn’t have a lot of money,” Walker’s daughter Norma Patterson said. “They relied on the VA for all his services. He was proud to serve and they just left him. He deserved better.”

Walker’s family says his widow is also in failing health, and suffering from the early stages of dementia. They say she was in no position to repay the bills or handle the calls from bill collectors.

via Family says VA didn’t pay vet’s final medical bills.

Kansas Congressman Uncovers VA ‘Gag Order’

WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE)– A Kansas Congressman says a surprise visit to the VA Hospital in Wichita, may have forced the VA to get rid of what he calls a nationwide “gag order.”

Congressman Tim Huelskamp made an unannounced visit last week to the Dole VA Medical Center for answers, but he left with many unanswered questions.

“The staff and the director of the day did hand me the email from Washington that directed them to not talk to the media, not talk to members the Congress, not to talk to Veterans about the scandal,” Huelskamp told KAKE news.

He says before his visit a nationwide email was sent out saying:

“Please immediately stand down on any further communications with stakeholders, delegation members, and others regarding the access audit, wait lists and accelerating care initiative.”

He says this email is proof there was a nationwide gag order, proof that the VA is not being transparent as they claim. “You put that together with the VA that issued a national gag order, it looks like at some level there is a cover up going on,” Huelskamp said.

But his bold move, his unannounced visit, may have opened up the lines of communication. The same day, hours after his visit and the original “gag order” email was sent, a revised version was sent out. “I guess pressure from me forced them to pull over that gag order,” he said.

He believes his visit may have forced the VA to revise the gag order. The revised email said: “Let me clarify and add to my earlier message. Communication with stakeholders including veterans, veterans service organizations, the media, Congress and state and local officials remain a top priority.”

Huelskamp says “if you are hiding stuff and covering up we’re never going to find the real solution.”

He says at a time when the VA faces lots of criticism all people want is transparency. “At the end of the day it’s my job as a member of Congress to get to the bottom of this and make sure that our veterans get the care that they deserve.”

Tuesday night, the House approved legislation to make it easier for patients going through delays for initial visits to get VA paid treatment from local doctors instead. The Senate will be voting on a similar bill soon.

via Kansas Congressman Uncovers VA ‘Gag Order’.

Bonuses at VA latest outrage

The disgrace of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs just keeps getting worse as the scandal of long delays that may have led to wrongful deaths, falsified records and outrageous executive bonuses continues to play out. The scandal also is getting closer to home, as federal officials are investigating whether the Lyons campus of the Veterans Affairs New Jersey Health Care System mishandled the scheduling of veterans’ appointments.

Nationwide, more than 57,000 U.S. military veterans have been waiting 90 days or more for their first VA medical appointments, and an additional 64,000 appear to have fallen through the cracks, never getting appointments after enrolling, the government said Monday in a report.

These unconscionable systemic delays are compounded by the revelation that 13 percent of schedulers in the 731 veterans’ hospitals and outpatient clinics audited said that they were told by supervisors to falsify appointment schedules to make patient waits appear shorter. The Lyons facility, in Somerset County, is among 112 Veterans Health Administration facilities being investigated because of concerns about “undesired scheduling practices” or because staffers indicated they had received instructions to modify scheduling dates to hide the length of time veterans were waiting to see a doctor.

As of May 15, the average wait time for new patients seeking specialty care within the VA New Jersey Health Care System was nearly 47 days, compared with 4.3 days for an established patient, according to the audit. The average wait time for a mental health appointment was nearly 30 days for a new patient, compared with 1.49 days for established patients. For primary care, new patients waited an average of nearly 25 days, compared with 1.07 days for established patients.

To make matters worse, top VHA executives were rewarded for making veterans wait. Even as federal inspectors repeatedly warned that patient wait lists were having a detrimental impact on care, the troubled Veterans Affairs health system handed out $108.7 million in bonuses to executives and employees the past three years, an Asbury Park Press investigation found.

Bonuses for New Jersey VA health care employees have been less than in other parts of the country: In 2013, 40 employees received bonuses averaging $1,848. But bonuses should be given for excellent work. No bonuses should be handed out in an organization in such disrepair.

While the House of Representatives has unanimously passed a bill that would suspend Veterans Affairs employee bonuses through 2016, it does not go far enough. The government should demand that the bonus money be returned and the money used to help ease the larger problem of the ongoing doctor shortage at the VA.

This editorial appeared in the Asbury Park Press.

via Bonuses at VA latest outrage.

Providence VA mortality rate high – seattlepi.com

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The Providence VA Medical Center’s mortality rate was among the highest in a recent tally of patient deaths among veterans hospitals nationwide, according to Veterans Affairs data released this week.

The figures, for January through March, were released in conjunction with the results of the VA audit conducted after reports of patients dying while awaiting appointments and of cover-ups at the Phoenix VA center.

According to the data, the Providence hospital was above the 90th percentile for the number of patients who die within 30 days of admission, meaning 90 percent of other VAs had a lower rate.

Providence VA spokeswoman Leslie Pierson said Friday the local hospital’s mortality rate was high because the hospital erroneously included hospice patients in the calculation. She said that while the mortality rate is a measure of how well a hospital is curing disease and injury, hospice patients are there to be made comfortable, not cured.

In its audit, the federal agency examined 731 VA hospitals and outpatient clinics and found more than 57,000 veterans had been waiting 90 days or more for their first VA medical appointments.

While the Providence VA was not among the sites flagged for further review, it had one of the longest average wait times in the country. The audit showed new patients were waiting about 74 days on average for a primary care appointment with the Providence VA. But Pierson said Friday that 74 days was a projected wait time based on patient volume in April. She said the actual wait time was closer to 35 days.

Pierson said she expects the wait time to go down because the Providence VA system is adding primary care teams at the hospital and at its outpatient clinic in Hyannis, Massachusetts. She said she also expects the mortality rate to fall as future calculations exclude hospice patients.

Thirty-four patients at the Providence VA died in the first quarter of this year, including 20 patients who were terminally or seriously ill and needed hospice care when they were admitted. Pierson said she suspects that other hospitals had lower rates because their hospice patients were not counted.

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed said that while the statistics don’t reflect the actual care or condition of the patients, the Providence VA’s mortality rate deserves attention.

“I don’t think we can sort of make excuses,” the Rhode Island Democrat said.

The hospital received one star out of a possible five in the federal agency’s quality rating system: the more stars, the fewer patients who died within 30 days of being admitted for heart failure or who needed to be readmitted after they were discharged.

“We want to be five stars,” Reed said.

The Providence VA might expand its palliative care program so veterans can be treated for acute or chronic pain without being admitted to the hospital. It says it has also taken steps to reduce the number of cases of ventilator-associated pneumonia and pressure ulcers — two of the areas where rates at the Providence hospital exceeded those at most other VA facilities.

Reed said he remains concerned.

“We can’t sit back and say it’s good enough,” he said. “We have to make it the best.”

But he said he believes Providence VA staff members have rededicated themselves to providing the best possible car

via Providence VA mortality rate high – seattlepi.com.

VA refuses to pay. Sticks vet with $6,000 in bills. | KVEO News Center 23 | The Rio Grande Valley’s News and Weather

BROWNSVILLE, TX (KVEO NEWSCENTER 23) — Another veteran has been struggling with the VA in Harlingen. This time, due to outstanding bills dating back to 2009.

In April of 2009, Richard Ramirez contacted his doctor at the VA in Harlingen because of stomach problems. The doctor advised him to go to the emergency once he reported vomiting blood. He went, got treated, and left. In September 2012, another emergency room visit was needed.

Richard Ramirez, Veteran, “I called my doctor up and asked him what I should do that day, it was at the end of the day, and he told me I should go to the hospital. And so I call an ambulance up and had them take me to a hospital. From that time, is the time I started getting bills.”

After he got the bills, he sent them off to the VA. The total of both visits is around $6,000.

Mr. Ramirez didn’t even know about the outstanding debt until he applied for a credit card last month. When his credit card application was denied, it was due to an outstanding balance.

He then contacted the VA to question why he still owed money.

Ramirez, “The hospital didn’t send it in in time, so the VA is saying they are not going to pay it. They are leaving me with the bill.”

Now, Ramirez sits on $6,000 worth of bills owing the hospital and has no credit. He is currently trying to contact Senator Ted Cruz in hopes that he can help erase the debt. He was clueless to his debt for almost 5 years.

Ramirez, “They didn’t say, ‘you know we didn’t take care of it, we are not going to take care of it’, nothing. When I go and tell them I’ve got a bill that came in from the hospital, ‘okay we’ll take care of it and get back to you’, and they never do.”

Ramirez is diagnosed with pancreatitis and diabetes, and is extremely concerned for his future medical bills.

via VA refuses to pay. Sticks vet with $6,000 in bills. | KVEO News Center 23 | The Rio Grande Valley’s News and Weather.