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Can You Sue the VA Over Delays in Treatment?

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

Delays in treatment may be responsible for more than 100 deaths at VA medical centers since 2001, according to a new report.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) admitted to the Dayton Daily News that at least 23 people have died because of delayed care. But the newspaper's investigation found the words "delay in treatment" in 167 paid settlement claims with the VA.

As the VA scandal unfolds, many veterans and their families may be wondering: Can you sue the VA over delays in treatment? The answer depends on your specific situation, but you'll likely need to follow a certain procedure before filing a lawsuit.

An Overview of the Claims Process

If you are a qualifying veteran, you're entitled to a number of benefits, most of which will be doled out by the VA.

If you experienced a delay in treatment at a VA center which led to an injury or even the death of a loved one, here are the general steps you'll likely need to take to seek compensation:

  • File a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). Service members are barred from using the FTCA to recover for any injuries incurred while on active duty, but veterans can recover under this act for injuries caused by federal employees -- including VA employees. The VA even provides this standard form which may be used for MCA claims, although the form itself isn't required.
  • Wait for the government's response. You must wait at least six months for the government to respond to your FTCA claim against the VA. This allows the government time to prepare to either settle your claim, further investigate it, or deny it.
  • If there is no action in six months, or if your claim is rejected, you can sue in federal court. Once you've waited six months and the government has not taken action (or if the government rejects your claim), you can then file a medical malpractice or negligence case against the VA in federal court.

The Dayton VA issued a statement to the Daily News assuring veterans that if there is an issue, the VA will "notify the veteran of his or her right to file a tort claim."

Whether or not that's true, you may wish to contact a veteran's benefits attorney to help you sort out your delay-of-care case.

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