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Medical Malpractice: Another Veteran Suffers

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Palm Bay, FLFrank Lewis (not his real name) is considering his legal options since becoming another in a long line of veterans who are victims of medical malpractice.

Frank was incorrectly diagnosed with end stage congestive heart failure and end stage coronary artery disease. Two years ago, he was given six months to live. Now, he's stuck with hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills, he's lost his house and he has never been properly diagnosed or treated for his heart condition.

veteran hospital malpracticeIn 2004, Frank was admitted to the Veterans Affairs (VA) medical center in West Palm Beach, Florida. He had a history of heart problems, but at that time was having more severe chest pains than usual. Frank was kept in the VA for two weeks. At the end of that time, he was diagnosed with end stage congestive heart failure and end stage coronary artery disease. He was discharged into the care of his primary doctor, who sent Frank to a hospice.

That's when Frank first realized there was a problem. The hospice complained that they weren't being paid for Frank's care. The VA was responsible for paying for Frank's time at the hospice. Someone from the hospice called a VA, but wound up calling the wrong one. The hospice phoned the VA in Tampa, not the one in West Palm Beach, where Frank had been diagnosed. The representative at Tampa told the hospice that they didn't know of any reason Frank should be at the hospice and also told the hospice that Frank was simultaneously taking narcotics from four different medical centers. "There's no way I could have been on all these drugs," Frank says. "I couldn't travel to the VA's. I was homebound." Talk about getting the runaround!

The hospice then discharged Frank, who went back to see his primary physician. It was then Frank was told a mistake had been made. "They told me that I'm not at end stage heart disease. But they didn't ever properly diagnose me. I went to the cardiologist, where I was told they need to do more tests. But I've had two open-heart surgeries and countless stent implants. I had been told that more invasive tests would be dangerous. So the cardiologist sent me to pain management instead. Pain management told me that they couldn't help me without a diagnosis from the cardiologist. The cardiologist won't do any invasive tests. No one will help me."

Frank was left paying for hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical bills because the VA refused to pay for his care over the past two years. "I've lost my house and my records say I'm a drug addict," he says. "The VA should have been paying my medical bills. They made the mistakes, so they should have paid. But they keep messing up. This wasn't even the first time I've had issue with the VA. A few years ago, I was supposed to receive a defibrillator. I wound up getting it through an emergency procedure at another medical center. Two and a half years later, the VA phoned me to say they had a defibrillator for me. How could I possibly have waited two and a half years for that?"

In addition to the negligent care and malpractice, Frank also says the doctors and staff at the VA have been less than apologetic about their mistakes. "They haven't said sorry," Frank says, "unless you count saying 'Aren't you thankful you aren't dead?' an apology."

"I'm stuck with a lot of medical bills now. My only income is from disability. Automatically, half of that goes to medical payments. Sometimes I'm making a choice between having medicine and putting food on the table. The VA's are the ones who made the mistakes. They should be paying the medical bills."

According to Frank, the VA medical centers are disorganized. "Each VA does not communicate with the others. So records at one don't get sent to another. One VA had no record of my stents. Any time you go to a new VA, you have to reregister and give them all the info yourself. It's ridiculous."

Frank is now at home, where he uses an oxygen mask and takes liquid morphine for the pain. He says he is not the only one who has suffered malpractice at the hands of a VA. "My dad went through it," he says. "My father was at the same VA as me. He discovered lumps in his neck, so he went to have it checked out. They just gave him antibiotics for it. It turned out he had cancer of the lymph nodes. By the time they figured it out, it was too late. He died a few months later."

Frank and his father aren't the only ones to suffer medical malpractice at the hands of a Veterans Affairs medical center. If you have been a victim of veteran medical malpractice, contact an attorney to find out what your options are.


Veterans Medical Malpractice Attorneys

If you have been a victim of medical malpractice, please contact a [Veterans Medical Malpractice] lawyer who will evaluate your claim at no charge.


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