In the decade since 9/11, the Department of Veterans Affairs has paid $200 million for wrongful death cases, the Seattle Times reports. The agency made payments to nearly 1,000 families, according to data obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR). Sadly, some of these deaths were due to suicide after the veterans were turned away from psychiatric care while others were the result of medical errors, including missed diagnoses, botched surgeries and fatal neglect of elderly veterans. Independent legal analysts believe that the 1,000 payments account for only a fraction of veterans who died due to malpractice by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Eighty-six year-old Doris Street told Seattle Times “It wasn’t about the money; I just thought somebody should be held accountable,” Street received a $135,000 settlement in 2010 for the wrongful death of her brother, Carl Glaze. Glaze was a WWII veteran who became paralyzed and subsequently died after falling in the bathroom of a VA nursing home in Grand Island, Nebraska. “I had asked them not to leave him alone, and then they left him in the bathroom,” said Street. “We all get upset when these things happen.”
According to Seattle Times, the median payment in the VA wrongful-death cases was $150,000.
Last September, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held a hearing to analyze deaths that occurred at VA hospitals in Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Dallas and Jackson, Miss. At this time, lawmakers accused the agency of rewarding officials with bonuses instead of holding them responsible for the wrongful deaths. For example, an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease at the VA hospital in Pittsburgh, which began in 2011, killed six veterans and left another 21 ill. Still, agency’s regional director, Michael Moreland, was given a bonus of nearly $63,000. There was no mention of the outbreak in the five-page evaluation that led to the bonus, and Moreland retired after receiving it.
On Wednesday, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is scheduled to have a hearing on preventable deaths.
“In order to provide real closure for those struck by these heartbreaking preventable deaths, VA needs to hold fully accountable the employees who allowed patients to slip through the cracks.” said Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.