Delays at Veterans’ Administration Hospitals Across the Country Are Killing Patients
On Thursday, April 24th, news broke that the Veterans Administration Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona had a secret waiting list to hide delays in months-long delays in treatment and diagnoses, so that the hospital would appear as though it made strides in shortening wait times.
Allegedly, the Phoenix VA had a waiting list, hidden in a file, of 1,400 to 1,600 veterans who were forced to wait months to see a doctor, and whose information was never put into the computer database to track their wait times.
According to a former doctor for the Veterans Administration Hospital, Dr. Sam Foote, involved administrators inputting new patient “information into the computer and do a screen capture hard copy printout. They then do not save what was put into the computer so there’s no record that you were ever here,” he said.
“That hard copy, if you will, that has the patient demographic information is then taken and placed onto a secret electronic waiting list, and then the data that is on that paper is shredded,” Foote said.
“So the only record that you have ever been there requesting care was on that secret list,” he said. “And they wouldn’t take you off that secret list until you had an appointment time that was less than 14 days so it would give the appearance that they were improving greatly the waiting times, when in fact they were not.”
South Carolina Also Epicenter of Veterans Administration Hospital Problem
While the information about the Phoenix Veterans Administration Hospital just broke, the problem with long wait lists and delayed treatment for veterans has been going on for months, or possibly years. South Carolina’s Williams Jennings Bryan Dorn Veterans Medical Center in Columbia is an epicenter of the problem, especially with their gastrointestinal division. Patients allegedly wait for months for endoscopies or colonoscopies, and those delays in diagnoses and treatments mean that more veterans die from gastrointestinal cancers.
In early April, Barry Coates, a veteran in South Carolina, testified about the delayed gastrointestinal treatment at the Dorn VA. Reportedly, in November 2010, Coates sought treatment at a VA hospital for severe rectal bleeding and abdominal pain. A doctor recommended a colonoscopy to find the source of the problem, but Coates faced delay after delay for more than a year. Finally, in December 2011, Coates received a colonoscopy and was diagnosed with colorectal cancer.
If his cancer had been detected the year before, however, he may have been able to survive it. But by the time he finally received a diagnosis, the cancer was too advanced.
“It is likely too late for me,” Coates told the House Committee on Veterans Affairs Wednesday during a hearing on delays in care at veterans’ medical centers.
“The gross negligence of my ongoing problems and crippling backlog epidemic of the VA medical system has not only handed me a death sentence, but ruined the quality of life I have for the meantime.
“I am not here today for me,” Coates said in an emotional written statement he provided to the committee. “I am here to speak for those to come so that they might be spared the pain I have already endured and know that I have yet to face.”
The Veterans Administration Hospital reported that 23 patients died from gastrointestinal cancers linked to delays in care. Another 53 were given “institutional disclosures,” suggesting that problems with their care may have contributed to the severity of their gastrointestinal cancer.
The Strom Law Firm Can Help with VA Cases, Including Those Against the VA for Gastroenterology Delays
The Veterans Benefit Lawyers at the Strom Law Firm, L.L.C. work with veterans to file claims for a variety of disabilities and can assist you in filing your claims. Veterans Disability can be complex. Not understanding the basics and not having counsel may leave you in a bind. We understand that you and your family need your benefits. We will put our years of experience to work for you to ensure that you have the representation necessary to actively pursue your claim. Call the Veterans Benefits Attorneys at the Strom Law Firm today to discuss your case. We will be glad to discuss any questions you may have during our free, confidential discussion. Call the attorneys at the Strom Law Firm at (803) 252-4800.