VA Malpractice Settlements Costly for American Taxpayers

Whitney Taylor | January 6th, 2016

patientVA settlement payments by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have skyrocketed in recent years, costing taxpayers a significant amount of money.

At the same time, employees responsible for the complaints do not seem to be suffering consequences for their alleged malpractice, as many of them continue to work in VA hospitals across the country.

Settlements on the rise

The Daily Caller reports that since 2006, the VA has made 4,353 malpractice settlements. Total settlements in 2014 alone were 541, a dramatic increase from the 322 in 2006. Between 2014 and 2015, the total amount paid in settlements came to around $230 million. The total amount in settlements paid since 2006 is $871 million.

Those voicing concerns about the rising number of settlements have noted that settling cases allows the VA to avoid admitting liability or wrongdoing in malpractice cases. It also allows the employee in question to avoid liability and subsequent discipline for what might be considered malpractice in a court of law.

Since it also appears many of these employees maintain their employment with the VA, it could also expose future patients to mistakes or malpractice as well.

Nurse’s aide still on payroll

The Daily Caller specifically notes a recent case involving a VA nurse’s aide, Frederick Kevin Harris. Harris was accused of beating a 70-year-old patient to death at the VA’s Alexandria, Louisiana hospital in December. The local coroner, Francis M. Brian, Jr., stated that the patient died of a blunt force to the head. Witnesses told investigators they saw Harris strike the patient.

Despite the evidence, an internal investigation by the VA absolved Harris of any wrongdoing. Although the VA did not take any disciplinary action against Harris, the department did settle the case out of court with the victim’s family for a total of $215,000.

Although Harris now faces manslaughter charges filed by the inspector general and local prosecutors, he continues to remain on the payroll of the hospital where the incident occurred. He will continue to receive his paychecks until the scheduled date of his trial in March of this year.

Jury awards rendered to malpractice victims

While settlements make up a higher than average portion of the malpractice complaints filed against the VA, other complaints do make it before a jury. Last August, a former army doctor that was permanently injured during routine shoulder surgery at the VA hospital in Phoenix was awarded $3.2 million by a jury. The jury in the case determined that the patient, Jacob Amrani, received sub-standard care in six areas. The doctor, who performed spinal surgery before his shoulder procedure, is no longer able to operate due to his injuries.

When a veteran is the victim of malpractice or negligence in a VA facility, legal recourse is available under the Federal Torts Claims Act (FTCA). The FTCA states that injuries caused by negligence or surgical errors can be the foundation for a medical malpractice lawsuit. However, it is important to work with an attorney experienced in this type of litigation to ensure the process goes as smoothly and successfully as possible.

If you are the victim of malpractice or negligence in a VA hospital or medical center, help is available. Contact The Sanders Firm today at 1.800.FAIR.PLAY for answers to your legal questions and a complimentary case assessment.


  1. The Daily Caller, VA Paid $871 Million in Medical Malpractice Deals in the Last Decade, http://dailycaller.com/2015/12/17/va-has-paid-230m-in-medical-malpractice-settlements/

  2. Military Times, VA Mismanagement, Malpractice Detailed in Reports, http://www.militarytimes.com/story/military/benefits/health-care/2015/05/17/veterans-affairs-inspector-general-reports/27302011/

  3. ABC 15, Phoenix VA Ordered to Pay $32 Million in Malpractice Case; Patient Claimed Shoulder Surgery was Botched, http://www.abc15.com/news/local-news/investigations/phoenix-va-ordered-to-pay-32m-in-malpractice-case-patient-claimed-shoulder-surgery-was-botched