Tags: Exclusive Interviews | Steve Malzberg Show | Heather Hansen | lawsuit | VA | veterans

Malpractice Expert: Lawsuits Limited Against the VA

By Bill Hoffmann   |   Friday, 16 May 2014 08:28 PM

The Veterans Administration scandal that has shaken the nation is partly fueled by the fact that many lawyers won't go after cases of wrongdoing involving a government facility, according to lawyer Heather Hansen, an expert on medical malpractice.

"If this were … private hospitals, private healthcare providers who were providing this type of care, it would completely unacceptable," Hansen told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.

"The accountability that we see in the private sector often come from lawsuits. The unfortunate reality is the type of suits that are allowed against the VA just don't draw attorneys, and so they're not filed, and there's no accountability.''

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That's because when the United States is taken to court, different rules are applied.

"So first of all, if a patient at the VA has a complaint, they first have to go through an administrative process, and that takes six months, and only after their claim is denied can they file a lawsuit in federal district court under the Federal Tort Claims Act," Hansen said.

"You can't get punitive damages … to punish the wrongdoer. Sometimes that's the biggest part of the damages.

And "the attorneys are only allowed 25 percent, which should be plenty, but many plaintiffs' attorneys are not going to take a case unless they get a full third.''

The leadership in the VA has come under intense scrutiny since whistleblowers alleged Phoenix VA Health Care officials doctored medical appointment wait times in an effort to hide problems in the system – delays that may have contributed to the deaths of 40 ill veterans.

On Friday, the top health official at the beleaguered Veterans Affairs department abruptly quit amid growing outrage over the delays in care for ailing veterans.

VA Undersecretary for Health Dr. Robert Petzel was supposed to retire this summer, but VA Secretary Eric Shinseki asked for his resignation early, Military Times reports.

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