The recent scandal regarding the quality of care provided to veterans at the nation’s Veterans’ Administration hospitals tended, at the outset, to center on the extremely long waiting time to get an appointment in just one of those hospitals. It later became clear, however, that the two-year and more waiting times at that hospital was matched and exceeded by dozens of others. That led to a rash of medical malpractice lawsuits for hospital negligence against the VA institutions, including here in Oregon.

The horror stories are now emerging. In one case, for example, a man who had served 20 years in the U.S. Air Force was admitted to a VA hospital with an emergency medical condition. Despite the emergency, a doctor did not see him until 48 hours later, when it was too late. He died several days later after transfer to another hospital. His widow says that the VA “just didn’t care.”

One thing that is becoming clear is that the scandal may have been playing out for years prior to it being made public. Many patients sued the VA hospitals for alleged shabby treatment and were paid millions. According to a VA report, the agency paid over $1 billion to victimized veterans and their families throughout the nation over the past decade.

Thus, in Oregon and throughout the nation, many veterans may have suffered with the broken system for many years, but perhaps they felt powerless to speak out or take remedial action. This was likely due to the intransigence of the bureaucratic mechanisms fueling the status quo. Sometimes, it takes an unexpected series of events to bring injustice to light. In this case, the fateful cards fell on the hospital negligence of one institution in a major population center to bring the revelations to light. Once the first card fell, a domino effect followed, much to the future well-being of the country’s veterans.

Source: kjrh.com, "VA hands out millions in malpractice cases according to oversight report by Sen. Tom Coburn", , July 28, 2014