Thursday, April 3, 2014

VA pays out $200 million nationally for veterans' wrongful deaths

Over 10 years, VA pays out $200 million nationally for veterans' wrongful deaths
The Center for Investigative Reporting
April 3, 2014

An Iraq War veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder and a history of drug dependency is found dead on the floor of his room at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in West Los Angeles after doctors give him a 30-day supply of the anti-anxiety medication alprazolam and a 15-day supply of methadone.

At the VA in San Diego, an intern fails to remove a central-line catheter in a hospitalized veteran, causing his immediate death.

In San Francisco, a Vietnam veteran is admitted to the VA with a special notation that he is prone to falling. Hospital staff regularly leave him unattended, and the veteran falls five times over two weeks, injuring his head, finger, ribs and left knee. After each fall, VA doctors prescribe escalating doses of narcotic painkillers until he overdoses and is moved to hospice care.

These are some of the deaths that resulted in more than $200 million in wrongful death payments by the Department of Veterans Affairs in the decade after 9/11, according to VA data obtained by The Center for Investigative Reporting.

In that time, CIR found the agency made wrongful death payments to nearly 1,000 grieving families, including 59 in California, ranging from decorated Iraq War veterans who shot or hanged themselves after being turned away from mental health treatment, to Vietnam veterans whose cancerous tumors were identified but allowed to grow, to missed diagnoses, botched surgeries and fatal neglect of elderly veterans. Two of the cases involved patients at the Fresno VA hospital.
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