Veterans Affairs Lawsuits: What You Need to KnowAbuse and Neglect
The VA helps provide vital services to disabled veterans, including those who can no longer care for themselves at home. Many veterans choose a VA nursing home or assisted living facility because it costs less than choosing an independent assisted living facility. Unfortunately, in some VA nursing homes, veterans do not receive the high standard of care they deserve following their service.
Reasons You Might File a VA Lawsuit
A veteran might choose to file a claim against the VA for a variety of reasons.
When bedridden patients or patients confined to a wheelchair cannot shift position comfortably, leading to extended pressure over a bony area of the body, bedsores can develop. In their earliest stages, bedsores, also known as pressure ulcers, may appear as reddened, slightly painful areas of the skin. As they deepen, however, they can break through the skin and lead to swelling, redness, and discharge. If caregivers do not treat bedsores promptly, they can lead to serious infections. While most bedsores do heal with time, ongoing negligence can leave patients with chronic bedsores that can impact their long-term health. In extreme cases, bedsores can lead to sepsis, which can be deadly.
Slip and Fall Accidents
Slip and fall injuries can lead to substantial injuries for many seniors.
Seniors who suffer slip and fall accidents in a VA nursing home or facility may suffer:
- Broken bones in the hands and arms;
- Broken hips;
- Traumatic brain injuries;
- Spinal cord injuries; and
- Severe bruising and/or lacerations.
In a VA nursing home, slip and fall accidents can occur because:
- The staff does not clear obstacles from walkways, increasing patient fall risk. Rugs, cables, and debris on the floor can all increase fall risk for seniors, as can liquid spills or water on the floor after someone tracks it in from outside. If the staff allows an obstacle to remain in a walkway that could cause a senior to fall, and one of the VA residents slips, causing serious injuries, the VA may bear liability for those injuries.
- The staff fails to properly supervise a resident with a high fall risk. Some residents in VA nursing homes are at a higher risk of slipping and falling than others. You may have the right to file a lawsuit against the VA if the VA knows that you have a high fall risk, but fails to properly supervise you. For example, some seniors may grow confused after a medical procedure, especially one involving anesthesia, and require more careful observation. Others may need observation and care when bathing or using the bathroom, where many falls occur.
- The facility does not receive proper maintenance. Proper maintenance on any facility can prove critical in preventing falls and other dangerous accidents. Often, VA facilities do not have adequate budgets to take care of even routine maintenance. Floors may become rough or uneven with time. Handrails might break and not receive proper repairs. Unfortunately, these hazards can substantially raise fall risk for residents at the facility.
When veterans move into a VA nursing home, they usually expect a high level of care from their caregivers. They may assume that, by moving into a nursing home, they will surround themselves with other veterans and receive care from nurses who understand their history and will act to provide them with a high level of care. Unfortunately, not all VA nursing homes provide the high standard of care residents expect. Negligence may occur due to understaffing, poor time management, or a lack of attention on the part of caregivers.
General negligence may include several issues that can create immense health problems or future ramifications for VA nursing home residents, including:
- Failure to help with basic hygiene. Many seniors, especially veterans who have considerable health problems because of their service, may have trouble taking care of basic tasks on their own. As their physical health deteriorates, they may need help with bathing, brushing teeth, and changing into clean clothes each day. Failure to help take care of these basic tasks can substantially increase a patient’s risk of infection.
- Lack of adequate food. In VA nursing homes, veterans usually rely on the VA to provide them with food. Unfortunately, caregivers may fail to bring meals on time or to make sure that residents make it to the dining hall or cafeteria promptly. Malnutrition in seniors can lead to overall weakness, trouble with healing and the immune system, and a greater risk of general health problems.
- Lack of attention to potential medical problems. VA caregivers may fail to note obvious health problems in senior residents in the nursing home, including signs that a previously controlled condition has gotten worse over time or that the resident has suffered an injury. Caregivers may not want to note those issues because they know it will mean more work and paperwork for them. They may also fail to notify doctors about conditions that resulted from previous lack of care.
- Ignoring resident requests and needs. In a VA nursing home, residents should receive attention and care whenever they have a need. They should not have to wait excessively long periods for someone to answer their calls or to come to them when they have an issue. Unfortunately, some caregivers ignore call lights or requests from residents. That may mean that residents must wait too long to use the toilet, to get help after a medical emergency, or to get cleaned up after an accident.
- Failing to protect patients. In nursing homes, staff members must exercise a high level of caution to help prevent patients from suffering unnecessary infections and illness, including COVID-19. If nursing home staff fail to take appropriate precautions, the staff could bear liability for injuries sustained by residents.
Why You Need a Lawyer to Handle a Claim Against the VA
If you have suffered serious negligence in a VA nursing home, working with an experienced VA attorney can help you pursue the compensation you deserve for losses you have faced due to a lack of attention or care.
An experienced VA attorney understands what it means to work with the VA
Since the VA is a government entity, you may have less time before the statute of limitations kicks in and you need to file your intent to seek compensation for the losses or injuries you faced. The VA also frequently tries to avoid liability for any claim against it. You need the help of an experienced attorney who knows how to navigate the legal system and how to deal with the VA.
An attorney can help you understand the compensation you deserve
As a veteran, you are committed to serving your country. Unfortunately, your country did not provide the same standard of service for you. You deserve a high standard of care, and when the VA fails to provide it, you have grounds to seek compensation.
In general, veterans who suffered neglect in a VA nursing home may have the right to file for compensation in several key areas:
- Medical expenses related to the negligence or overall lack of care. Often, serious medical expenses from VA negligence can result in substantial future medical expenses. You may need ongoing care related to your injuries or suffer a disability as a direct result of that negligence. Keep track of all medical expenses, especially if you see an outside provider at any time during your care.
- General economic damages. If you have any direct financial losses stemming from the neglect you suffered in a VA nursing home, including lost income due to an inability to return to work after an episode of neglect, you may seek compensation for those economic losses as part of your claim.
- Compensation for your suffering. Neglect in a nursing home can lead to immense physical suffering and considerable emotional anguish. Often, you may experience long-term emotional suffering from the neglect you experienced at the hands of the VA. An attorney can help you determine how to calculate those losses and include them as part of your claim.
A VA attorney can fight for you
Often, seeking compensation for VA negligence can mean a long road. You may need to go through multiple rounds of negotiation or even take your claim to court to receive the compensation you deserve. An attorney can fight for you every step of the way, helping to present your claim in the best possible light so that you can maximize the compensation you can receive for your losses.
What Should You Do if You Suffer Negligence in a VA Facility?
You know the high standard of care you deserve, especially following your service. If you suffered negligence in a VA facility, you should take immediate steps to rectify the situation.
1. Document the instances of negligence.
The more information you include in your report, the more clearly you can prove negligence at the hands of VA caregivers. Document any time you or a loved one in the care of the VA did not receive needed care, including assistance when asked. If you have visible signs of negligence, including bedsores, make sure you take photos of those injuries. If you requested care that did not come, document dates and times.
You may not document the first few signs of negligence, especially if you have previously received a high standard of care in your facility. As care continues to deteriorate, however, you may start noticing more obvious signs of neglect. Start documenting as soon as you recognize a problem.
2. Report problems as soon as you can.
Many soldiers have a “suffer in silence” mentality. They assume that they will receive care when the nursing staff can provide it to them. Because of that mentality, however, you may ignore the care you need for a long time, sometimes leading to significant physical effects. Instead of keeping silent about problems, report them. You may want to start with reporting to the supervisor over the shift that commonly commits acts of negligence.
If you have trouble with a specific shift, you may want to mention it to the supervisor for the next one. For example, if you frequently have trouble overnight, you may want to discuss it with the morning staff so they can address understaffing or lack of attention. If that does not get the attention you need, work your way up the chain of command to make sure that the higher-ups know about the problem.
3. Contact a lawyer to learn more about your rights.
You deserve a high standard of care in your nursing home. If you aren’t receiving the care you deserve through the VA, an attorney can help you better understand your rights and give you an idea of what you need to do next to secure the compensation you deserve and the care you need. Get in touch with a lawyer as soon as you start noticing signs of negligence. An attorney can help guide you through your next steps. Many attorneys will start with a free consultation to help you understand your rights and go over your claim, which can make it easier to afford a lawsuit against the VA.
As a veteran, you deserve a high standard of care for the service you gave as a member of the armed forces. When the VA fails to provide that high standard of care, you have the right to file for compensation. A veterans’ home neglect and abuse attorney can help you move forward with your claim and give you a better idea of the compensation you deserve.