As thousands of soldiers returned home from overseas in recent years, American taxpayers have paid more not just for veterans’ medical care but for a surge in malpractice claims against veterans hospitals.
Settlements and court judgments have cost taxpayers $845 million since 2003 and reached a high of $98 million last year, according to an exclusive analysis by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Cox Media Group, the parent company of the AJC and Atlanta’s Channel 2 Action News.
Some members of Congress and government watchdogs say the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs isn’t doing enough to prevent medical errors. They say the agency’s culture lacks accountability and incentives to improve.
“That’s unacceptable,” said Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., a licensed physician. “It’s we the taxpayers that are actually paying out the claims. And where’s the accountability?” Critics decry the VA practice of awarding bonuses to some doctors and administrators even if they have been implicated in medical mistakes. In Atlanta, a former head of the VA hospital received $65,000 in bonuses over a four-year span, a time when mismanagement of the hospital was linked to the deaths of three mental health patients.