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What can go wrong when the V.A. fails to refer cases?

Over the last two years, the Veteran's Health Administration has been plagued by scandal. The gap between the supply of quality services had not been able to keep up with demand.

As a result, a $15 million bill was rapidly passed by Congress to remedy the situation. A recent Congressional review finds the quickly constructed patch did not work. We will discuss waiting times and staff shortages in this post.

We also continue to have serious concerns about resistance to refer complex and difficult surgeries and procedures to private sector surgeons.

The new law was designed to take some of the pressure of the V.A. by allowing veteran's to see private doctors. At the same time, funding was provided to build up the resources at the V.A. through hiring new doctors and nurses.

Failure to reduce waiting times

What happened? The wait times have increased. The number of veterans waiting more than 30 days increased 50 percent according to a recent New York Times article.

The so-called Choice Program was hastily created with confused rules and poorly managed by a private contractor. What seemed a straightforward solution - provide access to a private doctor if a wait time would exceed 30 days or the closest V.A. clinic was 40 miles away - turned into a complicated mess.

Waits to see a private doctor can be longer than to be seen at the V.A. Private doctors have also dropped out of the program over delays in payment for their services.

Leaving faster than they can be replaced

The bill included funding to hire doctors and nurses. But 30 percent of the administration staff have retired or quit since 2011.

When some of the most experienced staff members depart, the added strain and pressure to move quickly can increase the occurrence of:

  • Misdiagnosis
  • Mistakes related to prescription doses or drug interactions and
  • Surgical or anesthesia errors

While the VA does deliver quality care in certain fields, the care can be inconsistent. Lack of access to doctors - both within the administration and in private practice - continues to be a management failure.

Malpractice claims can be brought against the V.A., but must be filed in Federal court through the Federal Tort Claims Act. Fighting the V.A. requires lawyers who know how to prosecute these claims both before the V.A. and the Federal Court. Weisfuse & Weisfuse LLP has extensive experience fighting for the rights of veterans who have been victims of medical malpractice.

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