Unable to sue the Army for medical malpractice, this retired soldier is now fighting the VA for benefits
By: Meghann Myers
August 26, 2019
For now, the hope is that a bill in Congress will allow Ospina, a mother of a young son, and veterans like her to seek compensation for alleged medical mistakes that they claim have altered their lives forever.
Retired Sgt. 1st Class Barbara Ospina Fitzsimmons said she was partially paralyzed after a spinal surgery in 2014. (Courtesy Barbara Ospina Fitzsimmons)Retired Sgt. 1st Class Barbara Ospina is partially paralyzed, in debilitating pain and confined to a wheelchair for almost all of her day. Her condition is the result of malpractice at the hands of hands of military medicine, according to claims she made to the Department of Veterans Affairs, but she is paying out of pocket for a caregiver to help her bathe, dress and prepare meals, because the VA has denied her request for caregiver assistance.
What began as a treatable birth defect turned into a dislocated neck and a stroke that went undetected for days, according to records provided to Military Times. Had that initial surgery taken place at a civilian hospital, Ospina, 29, would be able to seek damages. But the Feres Doctrine, a 1950 Supreme Court decision, prevents her from suing the Defense Department for service-connected illness or injury.
“Her story represents the egregious conduct, consistent lack of care and malpractice at the hands of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base,” her attorney, Natalie Khawam of the Tampa, Florida- and D.C.-based Whistleblower Law Firm, told Military Times on Tuesday.
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