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Wrongful death claims against VA raise serious concerns

Thousands of retired military members receive medical services from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) every year in cities like Los Angeles, California, and around the country. And while individual experiences vary greatly from case to case, independent investigators, along with state and federal legislators, are beginning to question the level and quality of care provided to VA patients across the country. In particular, the number of wrongful death claims filed against the VA is seen by some as particularly high.

The process of filing a wrongful death complaint against the VA healthcare system is different from that used in the private sector. Punitive damages are not awarded and the claims made by victims’ families must go through an extended review process. That is why some argue that many families never pursue cases and/or are turned down by personal injury attorneys.

The difficulties associated with filing claims against the VA are linked to why wrongful death payments issued since 2001 are not higher, according to some analysts. Since 9/11, it is estimated that the VA has issued close to 1000 payments to wrongful death victims, equaling more than $200 million.

The Center for Investigative Reporting reviewed the number of wrongful death payments made by the VA since September of 2001, highlighting individual cases and questioning the healthcare provider about its findings. According to a VA representative, such wrongful death rates are relatively low considering the number of patients treated.

In one case, an Iraq War veteran hospitalized at a VA facility in West Los Angeles allegedly died with access to multiple prescription medications, while being treated for drug dependency and PTSD.

Source: Chicago Tribune, “VA pays a price in wrongful deaths,” Aaron Glantz, April 29, 2014

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