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Veterans' malpractice judgments reach 12 year high

North Carolina residents may have heard about a 49-year-old former Marine who went to a veterans' medical facility in 2007 to have some teeth extracted and was left permanently incapacitated. He and his family received $17.5 million in a medical malpractice judgment, which was one of the largest against the Department of Veterans Affairs in 12 years. The settlement was one of several hundred payments totaling $91.7 million made by the U.S. government last year in an attempt to take care of VA malpractice claims.

More veterans are using VA medical care, and many require treatment that is more involved, especially since solders are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with injuries that would have been considered fatal during Vietnam or World War II. The rise in claims payments may have to do with the fact that many of the claimants are younger and tend to receive larger payments.

According to a 2011 Labor Department study, the median age of the veterans who served after the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington was 25 to 34 years old as opposed to 65 and over for veterans involved in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. If the VA makes an error on an older veteran, they often pay less in damages because the life expectancy is less than that of someone in their prime.

Errors made in medical facilities may cause hardship to patients and their families. Many people do not know where to turn when they or family members have been injured because of doctor or hospital negligence. Those seeking compensation may benefit from speaking with a medical malpractice attorney who may be able to offer options regarding how to proceed, especially after reviewing specific details, such as whether a facility may have failed to follow certain federal and state guidelines.

Source: Claims Journal, "Veterans Malpractice Payouts Reach 12-Year High on Taxpayer Tab", Kathleen Miller, September 09, 2013

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