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Health care for veterans could be increasingly stretched

Many residents of New Mexico have served with pride and distinction in our nation's armed forces. Our country has new generations of veterans now, in the wake of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan; this means that more and more people will be seeking medical care at Veterans Affairs hospitals in the years to come. And we owe it to those people to provide a safe level of care at these facilities.

However, there has been a pronounced increase in medical malpractice judgments against VA hospitals in recent years -- perhaps indicating that hospital negligence in these federal facilities is a real problem. And with staffing shortages and budget shortfalls a constant threat, the problem might continue for some time to come.

In financial terms, the ultimate fiscal responsibility for errors made at VA hospitals could be increased because of the younger age of today's veterans. For example, if doctors make a serious error involving a 70-year-old veteran who has a life expectancy of 75, that veteran would be entitled to only a few years of damages -- through his 75th year. But for a 25-year-old veteran in the same situation, that same error could amount to 50 years' worth of damages, or 10 times more (at least) as the previous example.

Some members of Congress have suggested that the VA isn't holding its employees accountable for errors. Regardless of whether an error occurred at a VA facility or somewhere else, victims may be entitled to compensation. An experienced personal injury attorney in New Mexico can advise someone in such a situation.

Source: Claims Journal, "Veterans Malpractice Payouts Reach 12-Year High on Taxpayer Tab," Kathleen Miller, Sept. 9, 2013

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