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Veteran Affairs Medical Malpractice: Highlighting Problems with the VA

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Marion, ILThe poor care that veterans receive from Veterans Affairs medical centers has once again been thrust into the spotlight after a doctor who worked at a VA center had his license revoked amid allegations of medical malpractice. Critics argue that this latest controversy proves that the VA is not properly treating its patients and veterans. Meanwhile, veterans upset at being subjected to repeated medical errors, are filing lawsuits alleging medical malpractice on the part of the VA.

Veteran Affairs In Marion, Il, care of veterans and hiring practices have become a topic of discussion after an investigation into the VA Medical Center was made public. The investigation concerns Dr. Jose Veizaga-Mendez, who is allegedly responsible for more than a few surgical deaths at the center in the past year. The doctor was hired by the VA despite being forced to give up his license in Massachusetts because of multiple malpractice cases. All inpatient surgeries at the Marion VA center were suspended on August 31, after administrators noted an increase in the hospital's mortality rate. From October 2006 to March 2007, nine people died after surgeries involving Veizaga-Mendez. Two deaths are generally regarded as normal for the time frame.

[The Boston Globe] (October 28, 2007) highlights the story of Robert A. Whitney, who suffered in agony for almost four years after his hernia operation. It turns out that Veizaga-Mendez embedded surgical staples into Whitney's bladder. In fact, Massachusetts officials allege that Veizaga-Mendez provided dangerous care to at least seven other patients, two of which died as a result of the care. This all occurred before Veizaga-Mendez was hired by the Marion VA Medical Center.

One of the patients at the Marion VA died from internal bleeding after gallbladder surgery. The victim's wife has filed a notice of intent to sue the VA, alleging that the VA should not have let Veizaga-Mendez perform surgery at all.

That a doctor who is under investigation in one state can be hired by the VA in another state is a cause of concern for VA officials. Lawmakers are criticizing the VA for not getting enough information about Veizaga-Mendez before hiring him. Four hospital officials have been reassigned until an investigation into the situation is completed.

However, the investigation may have already expanded. Reports indicate that a second physician at the VA medical center in Marion has been accused of improper patient treatment. The identity of this second physician has not been made public pending the investigation, but having two doctors at the same VA medical facility under investigation certainly shows that veterans are not receiving the care they deserve.

Meanwhile, an army veteran has filed a lawsuit against an Albuquerque VA center after he suffered through a month of serious pain caused by allegedly inept medical staff. According to the veteran, errors made by medical staff include failure to remove surgical hardware from his leg even though it was staph-infected, refusing to allow him to seek medical treatment elsewhere and puncturing a vein while inserting IV lines, which allowed a blood clot to form and antibiotics to seep into his soft tissue.

Veterans deserve to receive proper treatment when they are in the care of Veterans Affairs. However, these latest lawsuits, combined with all the controversy around Veterans Affairs in the past year, show that they still are not receiving adequate care.

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