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Is medical malpractice just another cost of the war?

The Iraq war has cost the United States billions of dollars, but not all costs are considered when the war budgets get tallied. One cost experienced by many is the emotional cost of the effects of war on our veterans, a cost that is leading many to file medical malpractice suits. Many American soldiers have sacrificed their life for our nation. However, some lost heroes seldom remembered take their own lives upon returning home. Such is the sad story of a soldier's widow, now residing in Florida and seeking compensation over what she believes was the preventable suicide of her husband.

The widow of an Iraq war veteran has filed a lawsuit claiming the VA was negligent in the failure to diagnose and properly treat her late husband's Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She alleges the negligence constituted medical malpractice that ultimately caused his 2008 suicide. Hers is not the first such lawsuit, as the VA is said to be defending many lawsuits filed by veterans' families who have lost a loved one to suicide.

The widow's husband petitioned the VA for PTSD benefits; detailing the PTSD he suffered during his Iraq tour of duty. His benefit claims were denied several times, although the VA hospital provided him with insomnia and depression medication. A doctor at the VA hospital treating him said in 2007 that the man was not a suicide risk; despite the fact the soldier had previously discussed thoughts of suicide with the doctor.

In 2008, an additional claim to the VA for service connected PTSD was denied, stating there was no "objective evidence" that could verify his work related stressors. He then cancelled his appointments with the VA, stopped taking medication, and shot himself in his home two months later. Following his death, the VA reversed its decision for his benefits entitlement. Upon examination of his medical records, it was concluded that the VA was "derelict in their duty" and identified his medical care as "substandard".

This Florida woman and their three children were left destitute. The saddest part of this story is that it is just one medical malpractice complaint of many from those suffering the effects of PTSD sustained while serving the country in a time of war. In cases such as this, a medical malpractice attorney may offer much needed support and assist in seeking compensation for negligence in treating often forgotten heroes of war.

Source: The Insurance Journal, "Widow Sues Tennessee Veterans Hospital Over Husband's Suicide," Kristin M. Hall, Oct. 14, 2011

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