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The future of medical malpractice laws for veterans is seeing improvements with the recent Brian Tally VA Employment Transparency Act
Who is Brian Tally and how is he changing how the medical industry addresses veterans who experience medical malpractice? This article addresses the year-long fight between Brian Tally, a 43-year-old veteran injured in a medical malpractice case five years ago, and Veterans Affairs officials. “My life changed in ways I could have never seen coming or ever imagined,” said Tally.
Having previously served as a sergeant in the Marine Corps, Tally visited the Loma Linda Veterans Affairs Medical Center in California in 2015 after a bout of extreme back pain. According to the article, “Doctors diagnosed him with a back sprain and sent him home with painkillers, without any blood tests or further examinations.” However, after weeks without any relief — or additional help from VA doctors — Tally visited a private-sector doctor (at his own expense), where new tests showed a bone-eating staph infection causing severe spinal damage.
Sadly, this is not an isolated case. There’s no doubt that veterans have bravely sacrificed their life and comfort to keep our country safe and strong. As a veteran, you expect the VA to help when medical issues arise. Unfortunately, overwhelmed, short-staffed VA hospitals sometimes make terrible mistakes when it comes to treating their patients. As a result, many veterans experience a lack of appropriate medical attention and end up with more damage than healing.
The Case of Tally and Loma Linda VA Medical Center (LLVAMC)
Prior to his injury and lack of proper medical attention, Tally was an active father of four and owner of his own landscaping business. Today, he is unable to walk without significant pain. His bladder is mostly non-functional and he said he spends most of his time “living in a chair.” Tally also struggles with depression.
Referring to his experience with the VA officials as “downright frightening, unconstitutional and criminal,” the family filed a claim against VA for malpractice, saying that “Doctors should have ordered more tests after his continued pain.”
While Tally has now paved the way in which VA officials will have to provide basic legal advice to veterans who file medical malpractice claims and provide information on local staffing issues as part of new legislation signed into law. But the fight hasn’t been easy.
After more than a year of working with department officials on the claim, Tally and his family were notified that the primary doctor involved in the case was an independent contractor, not a VA staffer. This means that Tally had missed state deadlines for filing proper legal claims for his injuries, with officials giving no reason to why providing that critical information took so long.
The new legislation mandates that the department provide “notice of the importance of securing legal counsel” and clearly identify the employment status of any individuals involved in the case within a month of a veteran submitting a malpractice claim. VA officials had opposed the idea, saying it creates an unnecessary burden on staff. Nonetheless, the full bill also includes numerous new protections for women veterans, student veterans, and veterans left with financial challenges related to the ongoing pandemic.
Although Tally and his family won’t directly benefit from the new rules, he’s satisfied that veterans are receiving the proper attention and care they rightfully deserve. Tally has pushed for the reforms in response to personal legal battles and is finally gaining the reinforcement, attention, and expiation he — and, by extension, all veterans — deserves after participating in this years-long lobbying effort.
Veterans, COVID-19 Vaccines, and Scams
Placing our attention on more issues that the veteran community has been facing, there has been a recent rise in COVID-19 vaccine scams that are target veterans. In this article, the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine is creating a new concern: scammers who are calling, texting and emailing veterans with promises of vaccine availability and early access to vaccines. Why the target on veterans?
First things first, we need to look at the reality of veterans post-service in order to understand why they’re a group that’s often targeted. The reality is that veterans are particularly susceptible to mistreatment — not just by random citizens who are looking for someone to target, but also by those in authority who actually have the power to do something about the mistreatment.
In an article published by the Rolling Stones over 5 years ago, the statistics were staggeringly shocking — and, what’s worse, present-day statistics are still jaw-dropping. During Obama’s administration, it was noted that at least 40 veterans had died waiting for care at VA facilities in the Phoenix area; the scandal mushroomed when an internal audit found more than 120,000 veterans across the country were left waiting or never got care, even as VA employees were trained to manipulate wait time numbers internally. It’s a scandal that continues to sting.
Still, as upsetting as the as the VA’s failures are, they’re the tip of the iceberg for how the United States fails its veterans. In that same article, statistics revealed that veterans are twice as likely as the average American to be chronically homeless. In fact, more than a third of homeless individuals across the country are veterans — between 529,000 and 840,000, depending on the time of year, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.
At this point, the number of homeless Vietnam veterans, male and female, is greater than the number of soldiers who died during the war. It’s even worse for female veterans, for whom the risk of becoming homeless is four times greater than for male veterans. What’s more … according to the VA, about 70 percent of homeless veterans suffer from substance abuse problems, and some 45 percent are suffering from mental illnesses, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
If these statistics prove one thing outside of the fact that veterans are severely mistreated, if treated at all, it’s that if the very country in which veterans have fought for is treating its so-called “heroes” like this, why would a standard American who isn’t in a position to uphold the same standards treat them with the respect they deserve? This is a sobering case of monkey-see, monkey do where the veterans get the short end of the stick because the “parent” (government) is treating them a certain way so the children (citizens) do the same.
How can you know if the message you receive about a vaccine is a real VA message or a scam? Here are some tips on how to how to avoid scams and how to tell the difference:
The VA will contact you to offer and administer COVID-19 vaccinations. Outreach will most likely come through the VA.gov website, VEText, MyHealtheVet or VA emails. VA may also reach out to you via the US Postal Service through letters and postcards. Or you may get a phone call. You can sign up for vaccine updates by visiting https://www.va.gov/health-care/covid-19-vaccine/stay-informed
The VA will never request money or your full Social Security Number through phone, email, or text message.
- The VA will never require payment in exchange for providing the vaccine early and will not require payment to become eligible for the vaccine.
What Went Wrong and How to Go Right with Veterans
One article summarized the strained relationship between each generation of veterans and America. Christian Appy, professor of History at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and author of three books on Vietnam, says: “The society really was ill-prepared to give these guys what they deserved. […] They were not necessarily looking for a parade, but they were certainly looking for basic human support and help in readjusting to civilian life after this really brutal war.”
Remember, this mistreatment isn’t new; America has a long history of treating veterans poorly and, if history repeats itself (though it doesn’t have to) then veterans will continue to receive poor treatment unless America makes a change.
“Talk is nice, but veterans need action. Disgusting but true: when it comes to actual help — spending enough money to make sure they can live with dignity — talk is all the U.S. has to offer.” — Japan Times
With this repetition of mistreatment, it’s no wonder criminals often target veterans for hate crimes. The promises these criminals offer are all lies. The people sending these messages are identity thieves who are after your sensitive personal information like Social Security Number money.
Can the Pentagon easily afford to solve these problems? That’s a rhetorical question. Of course it can, but vets aren’t a spending priority. Did you know that the U.S. apparently has enough funds to buy every homeless veteran a $700,000 house? But we live in a time where “If officers felt cheated, enlisted men felt absolutely betrayed … the common soldier got a pat on the back and a shove out the door.”
Brian Tally is just one of millions of cases where veterans are fighting for the treatment they deserve.