Wrongful death at U.S. veterans' medical facilities

A recent journalistic investigation uncovered disturbing numbers of wrongful deaths of veterans in government care.

Americans expect that our loved ones who have served in the military in war or peacetime will be adequately cared for by responsible governmental agencies. An April 2014 exposé by The Center for Investigative Reporting, a nonprofit news organization, painted a disturbing picture of dismal, dangerous, and ultimately fatal care of veterans that resulted in the payout of $200 million in wrongful death damages to almost 1,000 military family survivors over the decade following 2001.

In the Maryland and D.C. area, for example, data shows the following wrongful death payments by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, known as the VA:

  • Nine payouts concerning the Baltimore, Maryland, VA Medical Center ranging from $10,000 to $850,000
  • Three payouts concerning the Perry Point, Maryland, VA Medical Center ranging from $100,000 to $300,000
  • Seven payouts concerning the Washington, D.C., VA Medical Center ranging from $30,000 to $225,000

Descriptions of the types of negligence on which the claims at these three locations were based include:

  • Delayed, wrong or lack of diagnosis
  • Intubation problem
  • Failure to monitor
  • Medication errors
  • Abandonment
  • Failure to treat
  • Improper technique, performance or management
  • And more

The cases uncovered by the CIR ranged from the those of veterans of current and recent military conflicts often dealing with depression, or post-traumatic stress syndrome or PTSD, to elderly veterans of previous eras and wars facing illnesses related to aging, and more.

Legal remedies for survivors of wrongful death victims

Anyone who has lost a loved one because of medical malpractice, physician negligence, or nursing home abuse or neglect should speak with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible to understand the legal options for recovery.

A wrongful death lawyer can launch an investigation on behalf of the deceased patient to uncover important evidence and build the case for legal recovery. The sooner an investigation begins, the more likely it is that evidence will still be available and witness memories will be fresher.

The legal recourse available will vary depending on whether the death was in a government facility like the VA medical centers investigated by the CIR, or in a private hospital, clinic or nursing home. Lawsuits against the federal government typically have complicated, important procedural requirements and deadlines understood by knowledgeable legal counsel. Federal Tort Claims Act or FTCA cases may also include questions of both federal and state law, depending on the circumstances.

A medical malpractice attorney willing to go the distance and persist in a complex lawsuit will fight for recovery for the survivors of a wrongful death victim who died because of either private or governmental medical negligence.

Keywords: wrongful death, veteran, The Center for Investigative Reporting, Maryland, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, VA, negligence, CIR, medical malpractice, lawsuit

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