Veterans Get New Medical Malpractice Protections
January 01, 2021
As part of new legislation recently signed into law, the Department of Veterans Affairs will have to provide basic legal advice to veterans who file medical malpractice claims and provide information on local staffing issues. To read more on this topic, click here.
The new legislation, called the Brian Tally VA Employment Transparency Act, was included in a massive veteran’s policy act which passed without objection in both House and Senate in December. With President Trump giving his final approval on the measure on Tuesday, January 5th.
Brian Tally, the inspiration for the name of this act, is a veteran injured in a medical malpractice case five years ago, since then, he has pushed for reforms in response to his own legal battles with VA officials.
Previously serving as a sergeant in the Marine Corps, Tally had visited the Loma Linda Veterans Affairs Medical Center in California in 2015 after experiencing extreme back pain. Doctors at the medical center diagnosed him with a back sprain and sent him home with painkillers, without any blood tests or further examinations.
After weeks of pain, and no additional help from the VA doctors, Tally visited a private-doctor at his own expense, his new tests revealed a bone-eating staph infection that was causing severe spinal damage.
Back then, Brian Tally was an active father of four and owner of his own landscaping business. Today, he is unable to walk without significant pain, and his bladder is mostly non-functional.
Tally and his family would file a claim against VA citing medical malpractice, saying the doctors should have ordered more tests after his continued pain. However, after more than a year of working with department officials on the claim, they were notified that the primary doctor involved in the case was an independent contractor, not a VA staffer.
As a result, Tally had missed the state deadlines for filing a proper legal claim for his injuries. VA officials have not given any reason as to why that critical information took so long.
This new legislation will mandate the department to provide “a 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 have opposed the idea, saying it creates unnecessary burden on their staff.
The new legislation is not retroactive, so Tally and his family will not directly benefit from its passing. The full bill also includes numerous new protections for women veterans, student veterans, and veterans left with financial challenges related to the ongoing pandemic.