Lawsuits, claims against Phoenix VA released - CBS 5 - KPHO

Lawsuits, claims against Phoenix VA released

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(CBS 5 News) (CBS 5 News)

The US Department of Veterans Affairs received nearly 200 claims of wrongful death or injury at the Phoenix VA Medical Center since 2004, according to documents CBS 5 News obtained through a federal public records request.

The VA's Office of General Counsel released a list detailing each claim against the embattled Phoenix VA Medical Center including accusations of misdiagnosis, malpractice and failure to diagnose or treat a patient in a timely manner.

Tammy Digiacomo believes the Phoenix VA Medical Center is responsible for her father's death. Dominic Digiacomo, a Korean War veteran, died after receiving services from the Phoenix VA Medical Center.

"My father's case, it really is inexcusable," Digiacomo said.

Digiacomo claims her father was originally misdiagnosed then doctors at the Phoenix VA Medical Center failed to treat complications, ultimately resulting in his death.

In total, CBS 5's investigation revealed 188 cases were opened at the Phoenix VA Medical Center since 2004. Of those cases, the VA settled lawsuits on 31 of them and paid $6.9 million to patients who got ill or died since 2005. However, the majority of the claims were denied or dismissed by the VA's Regional or General Counsels.

There are likely many more families that have not filed claims but still have complaints with the Phoenix VA Medical Center. Digiacomo's family, for example, never filed a claim and they haven't seen a penny since her father died in 2007.

"We're not getting the care, and we're not being heard and that's tragic," Digiacomo said.

She is currently reviewing legal advice to determine whether her father's case would hold up in court.

In a similar case, the wife of an 80-year-old deceased veteran, alleges the VA Medical Center failed to timely diagnose and treat her husband's lung cancer. The woman asked for $1 million in compensation but her claim was denied by the VA's Regional Counsel.

Another claim was settled in court for $500,000 in which the family of a deceased veteran accused VA doctors of puncturing a veteran's pancreas during a procedure that ultimately resulted in the veteran's death.

The Office of General Counsel said the VA system pays out an average of $76 million every year in medical tort claims.

This year, the federal government expects those payments to jump, largely due to four settlements and judgments that total over $30 million.

For more on this story and other stories around Arizona from this author, follow Shawn Kline on Facebook and Twitter. 

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