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On Monday, March 6, 2017, a federal judge awarded $2.5 million to a military veteran who was denied timely medical care at a Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Phoenix, Arizona. The Arizona Republic‘s Jacques Billeaud reports on the results of the civil trial in federal court.
A judge on Monday awarded $2.5 million to a military veteran who said that his now-terminal cancer would have been curable had the Veterans Affairs hospital in Phoenix diagnosed it sooner.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Michelle Burns ruled a nurse practitioner who found abnormalities in Steven Harold Cooper’s prostate during an examination in late 2011 at the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center had breached the standard of care by failing to order more testing and refer him to a urologist.
Instead, Cooper learned 11 months later from a VA doctor that he had stage-IV prostate cancer. The day after receiving the diagnosis, Cooper sought treatment from a private doctor….
Phoenix was the epicenter of a scandal in which whistleblowers revealed that veterans on secret waiting lists faced scheduling delays of up to a year. An investigation by the VA’s Office of Inspector General into the wait-time scandal concluded that as many as 40 veterans died while awaiting care. The scandal led to the ouster of former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and a new law overhauling the agency and granting veterans easier access to treatment outside the VA.
For U.S. taxpayers, the most objectionable thing about the outcome in this case is that they are the ones who are being put on the hook for accountability in having to pay the $2.5 million judgment against the misconduct of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ employees. That is despite the fact that neither you, nor I, nor any individual outside of the VA contributed in any way to the situation that led to the court’s judgment against the VA.
At the same time, under the legal concept of sovereign immunity, the VA’s employees who are directly responsible for the situation will not bear any of the cost of the $2.5 million judgment.
But if they were, U.S. taxpayers could avoid being needlessly burdened with such large costs stemming from the misconduct of government employees if those employees were directly held accountable for their actions by directly bearing the financial consequences.
There are strong legal arguments against the claimed sovereign immunity of government bureaucrats, but until U.S. lawmakers reform the law to allow for the piercing of the government veil by the parties who have been injured by the bad actions undertaken by bureaucrats, in much the same way as applies in the corporate world, we will have the endure the negative outcomes of having bureaucrats be far too insulated from the consequences of their actions to have sufficient incentive to act in the best interests of U.S. taxpayers.