Philadelphia, PA (PRWEB) July 24, 2014
“To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.” The inspired quote is attributed to Abraham Lincoln. It is also the long-adopted motto of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). And yet the reality of Lincoln’s words, and admonition to care for the nation’s service personnel in exchange for their service in times of conflict, leaves much to be desired, according to a noted attorney who represents many veterans locked in a battle they never expected to wage: the battle for care.
“It is not possible to put a precise number on how many people have been harmed by delays in medical care at the veterans administration,” says Shanin Specter, in comments to journalist Brenda Craig from her July 8th, 2014 article, a senior writer with LawyersandSettlements.com in Los Angeles. “But it is axiomatic that medical care, when delayed, will cause harm in a lot of circumstances.”
Specter’s comments come in the wake of a new report * issued on June 24, 2014 from the offices of US Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), “Friendly Fire: Death, Delay and Dismay at the VA”, that holds that hundreds of deaths at the VA have been attributable to incompetence and delays within the VA system. While according to FoxNews** (5/30/14), the VA has previously assumed responsibility for 23 deaths, Coburn’s reports states that “over the past decade, more than 1,000 veterans may have died as a result of VA malfeasance.” ***
“I think that the care provided at the VA hospitals, when it is provided in a timely fashion, has improved a lot over the decade,” Specter told LawyersandSettlements.com in an interview. “It used to be that the VA was the stepchild of the American medical system, and for the most part, that is no longer true.
“However, the delays in getting care are an entirely different situation,” Specter adds. “And it is a reminder of days gone by where care at the VA was substandard. Now the issue is not so much substandard care, the issue is can you get the care; and I have to say this has to be addressed."
“When you have delays, you are going to have more deaths and other complications that are going to affect quality of life,” says Specter.
The report is detailed, and provides a forensic snapshot into the world of the VA, from the funds spent on furniture each year, to the return on investments towards digitizing records. Most notable, however, are the examples of servicemen who fell victims to chronic delays at the VA.
One notable example cited by the report **** involved a Veterans medical malpractice incident in which a veteran of the US Navy who waited months for care and treatment. The man was subsequently rushed to hospital, with an accompanying notation on his chart that his condition was considered urgent. And yet, without explanation he was sent home. The man eventually died of Stage 4 bladder cancer just a week after landing an appointment at the VA hospital.
Specter also notes the case of ex-marine Christopher Ellison, who suffered a stroke in 2007 while driving home following a visit with the VA dentist. It was reported the dentist carried through with a multiple tooth extraction in spite of Ellison’s rapidly crashing blood pressure.
Ellison sued the VA in a Veterans medical malpractice lawsuit and won, with Specter’s help, a $17.5 million judgment (Ellison v. United States, 753 F. Supp. 2d 468 (E.D. Pa. 2010), District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania).
According to the Coburn report*, the VA has long claimed chronic under-funding. However, the report notes that VA funding, when adjusted for inflation, has actually increased in excess of 92 percent over the past decade.
Shanin Specter is a partner with the law firm Kline & Specter, in Philadelphia.
*Friendly Fire: Death, Delay & Dismay at the VA, Senator Tom Coburn MD (R-OK), 4/3/14, http://www.coburn.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?a=Files.Serve&File_id=577d9e90-ee2a-4eee-a52d-2cf394420761
**Eric Shinseki resigns as Veterans Affairs secretary, Fox News/WGHP, 5/30/14, http://myfox8.com/2014/05/30/president-obama-accepts-eric-shinsekis-resignation-following-va-scandal/
***Friendly Fire: Death, Delay & Dismay at the VA, Tom Coburn MD, p88, End Notes, Aaron Glantz, “VA pays out $200 million for veterans’ wrongful deaths,” Center for Investigative Reporting, 4/3/14; http://www.coburn.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?a=Files.Serve&File_id=577d9e90-ee2a-4eee-a52d-2cf394420761
****Friendly Fire: Death, Delay & Dismay at the VA, Tom Coburn MD, Veterans are Suffering and Dying Under The VA’s Watch, p8., 4/3/14, http://www.coburn.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?a=Files.Serve&File_id=577d9e90-ee2a-4eee-a52d-2cf394420761
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